Women's Media Center

Why Indian Women Napping in Public Parks is a Powerful Act of Feminist Protest

It was a mild Saturday afternoon last December in Chennai, India’s Semmozhi Park. The park was full: couples strolling hand in hand, families having picnics, solitary people reading newspapers on park benches. Overhead, clouds passed in the sky, and below, the grass was dappled with winter sunshine.

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The #MosqueMeToo Controversy Sheds Light on Sexualized Violence and Xenophobia

In a Washington Post opinion piece published Thursday, Egyptian-American writer and feminist Mona Eltahawy wrote about being sexually assaulted during the hajj—the Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca—and her efforts to bring other Muslim women’s experiences to light by starting #MosqueMeToo on Twitter.

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Why Are Asian American Women Still Inaccurately Portrayed on TV?

“Hollywood always wants a white co-lead,” said Nancy Yuen, associate professor at Biola University and one of the principal authors of a new study about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in prime time and streaming television. “We need Asian American women to not be seen as tokens or missing from a white man’s story.”

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How One American Journalist Took Down Militiamen Who Raped 50 Young Girls

Twelve Congolese militiamen who raped nearly 50 young girls were convicted Wednesday in a historic and precedent-setting trial in Democratic Republic of Congo. One was a Member of Parliament who masterminded this mass crime.

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Startling Fact: Women in Prison Are More Likely Than Men to Have Been Abused and More

Since 1985, the number of women in prison has been increasing at nearly double the rate of men. A growing number of advocates and scholars—including formerly incarcerated women—are taking a closer look at the reasons, and what can be done to stem the tide. What’s more, women of color are significantly overrepresented. In 2010, African American women were incarcerated at nearly three times the rate as white women, and Latina women were incarcerated at 1.6 times the rate.

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A Personal Glimpse into Our Woefully Inadequate Mental Health System

This story originally appeared at the Women's Media Center Web site. To receive WMC features by email, click here.

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Living in the Path of Drones

This story originally appeared at the Women's Media Center Web site. To receive WMC features by email, click here.

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Women Lose Big in Racial Wealth Gap

This article originally appeared on the Web site of the Women's Media Center. To receive e-mail updates on more great articles, click here.

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14-Year-Old Blogger on Why Girls Should Embrace Feminism

Tavi Gevinson started high school this fall. She also runs a fashion blog, StyleRookie, that gets a million and a half hits a month. I ask her what it’s like, as a semi-professional fashion critic, to walk the halls observing her schoolmates and their various fashion senses. Tavi says she knows girls in sweatpants aren’t trying to make a statement. “I think it would be sort of ridiculous if I was like, ‘Well, this person is really nice, but their t-shirt really puts me off.’”

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Rape Evidence Often Goes Untested For a Decade or More

When I picked up the September issue of Marie Claire, my expectations began and ended at the cover– a Mary-Kate Olson profile, some insights from Tim Gunn, an expose on online dating and, to my slight irritation, “Diet Secrets: What Women Really Eat.” Imagine my surprise, then, when I flipped to page 166 and saw the faces of 28 women staring back at me, each with a caption: “Still waiting after 17 years,” “Waited 9 months,” “Case closed without testing,” “Rape kit destroyed.”

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Not Enough Women at the Oscars

Without women, the greatest moments in film this year would not have been possible. Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan and I founded Women's Media Center (WMC) five years ago to keep proving that very point: women are not only assets but requirements for a truly democratic media - and for strong and innovative entertainment. In this spirit, we at WMC celebrate all the women nominated for this year's Academy Awards. Our video tribute below features clips from Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, Meryl Streep's uncanny Julia Child, the Set Direction and Art Decoration for Sherlock Holmes, the documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America from Executive Producer Jodie Evans - CODEPINK founder, and Women's Media Center board chair - and many more:

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Can Feminist Groups and Bloggers Bridge the Digital Divide?

At the least, leaders of national women's rights groups and the founders of fast-growing feminist blog sites gathered in the same room. That in itself was a first. And a major accomplishment, says Shireen Mitchell of Digital Sisters, one of the organizers of the Fem2.0 conference held in early February in Washington, DC.

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The Atrocities Committed Against Women and Girls in the Congo Defy Imagination

Behind the headlines heralding potentially positive developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), women and girls continue to be at risk. Media outlets report the arrest of rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda and the possibility of peace openings, but the eastern region where women and girls have been savagely raped and mutilated remains traumatized.

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Women Ready To Lead in an Obama Administration

Women's groups are moving on many fronts to seek to affect policies and appointments in the upcoming Barack Obama administration.

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NBC Stuck in the 1950s

In selecting David Gregory as the next moderator of “Meet the Press,” as has been reported, NBC missed an opportunity to keep up with a changing America and respond to calls for greater diversity. It is important for television viewers to be exposed to a broad range of perspectives and not exclusively those of white males.

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Challenges Hillary Clinton Would Face as the Next Secretary of State

The wild cheering and celebrations around the globe that followed Barack Obama’s presidential victory show just how much the rest of the world had at stake in this election. Senator Hilary Clinton, expected to be formally nominated as secretary of state after Thanksgiving, will find that goodwill to be an asset.

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Military Women Get Ready to Rock the Boat

For women in the military, this election season has the potential either to focus a spotlight on long-neglected needs or to continue rendering us invisible. Due to our military training, we often struggle to exercise our right to speak out, but now we need systemic and systematic change, both to do justice to service members and to create healthier communities for everyone.

I was still in high school in 2000 when I joined up, looking for a fuller life than I saw available to me in blue-collar Buffalo, N.Y. But would I have ever joined the military if higher education were not so hard to fund? Would the young, the poor, the single mothers feel their only option was to enlist if adequate housing, jobs and health care were more readily available?

These are fundamental social inequalities that funnel people into the military. We hope to escape the injustice of racism, sexism and homophobia by proving ourselves -- by being able to say, "I served. I earned my place here." And service does earn us praise, but only as long as we don't rock that boat.

For the military, this election has heavy stakes, with two occupations taking place simultaneously, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and a third waiting in the wings. Such high stakes tend to push aside other issues, and we risk being forced into silence for fear that the boat may capsize. But if it's that close to going under, isn't it time for a better boat?

Female veterans know this feeling all too well. All service members are taught to never question a mission. For female service members, this silence can have particularly dangerous consequences. When I began basic training, I never expected the culture of fear that service women take pride in living through. From a young woman ready to stand for what was right, I was being turned into a person who shrugged off injustice. When I helped another female recruit report a physical assault, I saw her become the target of widespread verbal harassment. The lesson? Bearing indignity silently in private is far better than risking public ridicule from those who choose to make you a target.

Imagine if those flashy recruiting commercials showed the real dangers a woman can face while serving in the military, living her formative years in a hazardous work environment where racism and homophobia are tolerated for the sake of "getting by" and sexual harassment goes unreported so you don't "ruin his career." All this while women work twice as hard to prove themselves as soldiers -- more than just a "bitch," "dyke," "whore."

I recently read a news story that highlighted service women who spoke of working twice as hard as the men in order to be seen as equal. That only made them appreciate the military, they said. These stories make me cringe because I remember very keenly boasting about unnecessary hardship -- we thought it made us tough. But now such pride seems more like a coping method, one that allows negligent and sometimes criminal behavior to go unpunished. It pits women against one another, with those who are sexually assaulted seen as weak -- as if strength alone and not luck allows one to avoid rape or assault.

Buried within this news story was an unfortunate example, a soldier named Spc. Kamisha Block, reported dead in Iraq of a "non-combat related injury." This injury turned out to be gunshot wounds inflicted by a male soldier who had a record of three previous assaults against her. It is obvious Block was not silent, yet her reports only resulted in her harasser being moved five minutes away from her in Iraq, allowing him the access to murder her before turning the gun on himself. When political candidates this season talk of foreign aggressors, they miss the largest threat military women face. By May 2004 there were already 112 reports of sexual assault and rape in Iraq and Afghanistan. New Department of Defense policies make reporting easier, but what does it matter if complaints fall on deaf ears?

Sadly, these are only secondary concerns in politics, at the VA and the Pentagon, or even in the anti-war movement -- if they are issues at all. The current occupation of Iraq has left 97 women dead, the most so far of any American military intervention. Forty percent -- 39 -- of those are attributed to non-combat related injuries. Still uncounted in these numbers are suicides and murders that happen in the United States or on military bases post-deployment. Block was reported to have died of friendly fire, so it is hard to extrapolate how many such deaths were actually murders. We need to know more about Pfc. Tina Priest, whose apparent suicide followed a rape allegation that was dropped after her death, and about Pfc. Lavena Johnson, who was beaten, set on fire and doused with acid; her death was somehow ruled a suicide. Their families are still trying to find answers.

One begins to understand why some women in Iraq -- marked as targets by both their uniform and their womanhood -- carry weapons for protection against fellow service members. We need to make these stories public, so that female service members find communities to amplify their voices when they speak out against these injustices. The Pentagon must be convinced that cover-ups will be uncovered with due haste. We need to ask other women, those who may feel like just one unworthy case, if they have stories to tell.

And we must look at the way post-traumatic stress disorder affects men if we really want to address the role of women in the military, both as service members and partners of male soldiers. It's easy to vilify men who turn on women with violence to escape their own powerlessness. Yet once again we don't have a flashy military recruitment video that shows the real effects of war, seeing your friends blown up, being forced to kill. A whole generation of young service men is becoming emotionally shut off -- for fear of seeming "weak" if they show signs of cracking under the enormous pressure of bloody combat.

The PTSD women experience in association with military sexual trauma (MST) must also be treated seriously. The title itself, post-traumatic stress disorder, suggests an abnormal reaction to combat or sexual assault. We continue to reinforce the idea that one is a broken person when experiencing PTSD -- something wrong with the individual rather than with what happened to them. Women also lose out because current combat PTSD care is often geared toward men since women are officially barred from the combat zone, as though the military could sustain the occupation without women playing combat roles. If a woman is experiencing both combat and MST-related PTSD, she may be directed to male-filled PTSD groups or MST groups with no combat support. She has nowhere within the VA to find the care she needs.

If we are going to create any meaningful change for service women, it will require that as a country we begin to truthfully recognize our military. As it stands, the occupation of Iraq has become more of a far-away sound bite than a tangible situation that real people face every day. Our media must do its job. Sen. Barack Obama's trip to Iraq should afford a valuable glimpse into the reality of the occupation for our female service members. Listen to their firsthand accounts. It's a real opportunity to highlight the dangers they face.

This is no time to relegate these concerns to the status of "women's issues" in election campaigns. When any candidate is questioned on the gaps in VA health care, they cannot be allowed a free pass to render MST and female service members invisible. The candidates vying for commander in chief must be held accountable by the media for a full understanding of that job in the 21st century, when women in the military are a reality.

Female veterans and service members are bravely bringing these issues to light, breaking the code of silence. Their acts of courage mean there is no longer an excuse for inaction at any level of our media or government. I have found a voice in SWAN, the Service Women's Action Network, which allows me to share my story and help other women share theirs. The healing and subsequent strength gained from this regained visibility needs to happen for our country as well. Too often I am asked if my military battle dress is a boyfriend's, as if it were not possible that the uniform was once my work clothing. Instead of asking such questions, it's time to listen.

Media Downplay Widespread Support for Hillary

The political and media hype about the Kennedy family's anointment of Senator Barack Obama eclipsed the Clinton campaign's boots-on-the-ground organizational work in the 22 states with Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday.

In the end, Hillary Clinton held her own through hard work and an improved message, and continued to court women who rewarded her with a 20-point margin over Obama. She took New York, New Jersey, the prized battleground state of California -- and Massachusetts -- as well as Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Arizona (where Governor Janet Napolitano had endorsed Obama).

Right after her comeback victory in New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign put a priority on getting Californians to vote absentee. More than half of Californians did just that, blunting the Obama momentum of the past week that had cut her lead to nothing. She bought time on Spanish-language broadcast outlets, not just those broadcasting in English.

Clinton emerged from Super Tuesday with a 70-delegate margin over Obama, but primaries coming in the next week will pose new challenges, in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, Maine, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Obama increased his credibility and votes with whites, most notably in the South and Midwest. He may have inherited votes of white men from former Senator John Edwards, who dropped out a week ago. Obama took 13 states. And he took every state that held caucuses rather than primaries, reflecting his strength with more liberal Democrats who turn out to caucus.

On election eve, the pundits were back-pedaling somewhat from their predictions days earlier that the Obama endorsement by Senator Edward Kennedy and his niece, Caroline Kennedy, would prove fatal to Clinton -- with union voters, Latinos and in delegate-rich states such as California.

Clinton withstood the Kennedy onslaught. And one of the sweetest victories was the earliest: an upset in Kennedy's home turf of Massachusetts, with women voting for her 62-36. One of her key supporters, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, said his state was "Clinton country" and that the election "was about real people," about the working class.

Clinton won the hotly contested California primary with a huge margin among Hispanics, Asians -- and women. Women voted for her by a commanding 57-39 margin, ignoring appeals last weekend from Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy and her cousin Maria Shriver to switch to Obama.

Clinton's endorsements from three children of the late Robert Kennedy had been discounted, when noticed at all, by the East Coast media. They wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece that ran soon after Caroline Kennedy's bombshell Obama endorsement that, in essence, deeds count more than poetic words. Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said she had worked with Clinton for 25 years, as had her two brothers for 15 years, on issues of children and poverty. This may have had resonance with California Latinos.

They stayed hitched to Clinton. They also turned out in record numbers, comprising nearly 30 percent of the California vote, voting 66-33 for Clinton. Hispanic women also voted with Clinton in Obama's home state of Illinois, as well as in other states where they are a significant bloc, such as New Jersey and New Mexico.

Super Tuesday reinforced certain realities. Obama does best with blacks, more affluent and better educated voters and with those under 30. He is doing better with whites than in earlier primaries. Clinton wins with a solid bloc of women voters, a better than 2-1 margin among Hispanics, an even larger one among Asian voters and a major edge among older voters.

That doesn't tell the full story. Women are turning out in record numbers and have averaged 58 percent of Democratic primary voters. Young voters are not. Their turnout Tuesday ranged from 8 percent in New Mexico to 16 percent in California but the average was about 12 percent -- not much more than their historic average. The Iowa caucus surge of young voters has not been replicated elsewhere.

More pertinent is the fact that Obama's clout with young voters is eclipsed by Clinton's strength with voters 60 and over, who form a core chunk of the Democratic electorate. They constituted 30 percent of the voters in New York and Massachusetts, 36 percent in New Mexico, 28 percent in California and 32 percent in Missouri.

The outside noise of a severely distressed economy may affect the coming votes. Clinton's wonkish speeches on specific economic programs may kick in here to provide a more secure basis of support than had been thought. That is partly because she is spelling out relief plans for homeowners who risk losing their homes in the subprime mortgage crisis. When she talks about reform of the health care system, she talks about providing relief to small business owners who face huge and escalating health care costs for their workers.

And Clinton may be getting more comfortable with finding a more lyrical way of talking about what she wants to do. She'll never match Obama in his soaring rhetoric about hope.

But, in her election-night speech, she said she'd work for "people on the day shift, the night shift, the late shift with the crying baby" and for "all those who aren't in the headlines but have always written America's story."

Is Primary Season Good for Feminism?

For liberals and progressives, the presidential primary season of 2008 is a breathtaking moment. Historic "firsts" are represented by the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama; add in John Edwards and you have a race contested by three figures, each of whom depicts in an iconic way one of three core ideals that define the traditional liberal coalition in the Democratic Party: women's rights, civil rights and economic populism. Each of these candidates, of course, represents a far wider range of policy positions than that suggested by her or his iconographic status. Consequently, in a moment of great opportunity and challenge for the women's movement, all have drawn high-visibility feminists to their campaigns.

If feminism is a group activity, in Washington, D.C., it is doubly so. Despite competing egos and occasional differences in approach, Washington feminists are used to collaborating on causes ranging from access to birth control to the plight of women in Afghanistan. But many of the same women now find themselves on opposing fronts in the Democratic primary wars. It's a situation fraught with both promise and tension, particularly as one of the main contenders embodies in her very person women's highest political aspirations. As the competition grows in intensity, loyalties, not to mention civilities, are sure to be tested.

Last month, a handful of feminist advisers to the presidential campaigns participated in a panel discussion at the Democratic National Committee Leadership meeting that included Ann Lewis of the Clinton campaign, Karen Mulhauser of Obama's campaign, Kate Michelman backing Edwards, and Martha Burk, then adviser to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has since dropped out of the race. There the group agreed to unite behind a single candidate after a nominee emerges from the primary season. Asked if panel members seemed friendly, Michelman first said yes, but then added, "I think there's always a little tension when you're obviously competing." And indeed, since then they've been fielding something a little harder than beanballs.

In the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses, the Clinton and Obama campaigns entered into a tussle over Obama's reproductive-rights voting record in the Illinois State Legislature. Discovering that Obama had cast seven votes on reproductive rights issues that were neither "aye" nor "nay" but simply "present," Clinton advisers found an issue to flog. Pam Sutherland of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council told the New York Times that in casting those votes, Obama was simply following a strategy advanced by the state's pro-choice groups. Rather than let go of the issue, however, the Clinton campaign carried the attack to New Hampshire, first, as reported by TAPPED's Dana Goldstein, with a mailed flyer, and then with a day-before-the-primary email to supporters criticizing Obama's "present" votes. Obama's campaign rebutted the charges in automated recorded phone messages -- known as robo-calls -- saying Clinton was using smear tactics. To this, the Clinton side cried foul, citing a campaign law about such calls. (Turns out the rule invoked, on how and when such calls must identify the caller, doesn't apply to primaries.)

"I do not care what strategy you think you're employing," Clinton volunteer Melody Drnach told me in Manchester, New Hampshire, on the day of the primary. "When it comes time to make a vote for women's reproductive rights, 'present' is not change," insisted Drnach, who is action vice president for the National Organization for Women, whose political action committee endorsed Clinton last spring. "'Present' just means I'm sitting here today, but I have no opinion." Talking to me also that day, from outside a polling station in Nashua, Karen Mulhauser said, "I actually find it shocking that they're using this as a campaign issue" after having heard from Illinois pro-choice movement leaders that her candidate "got it right." Susan Turnbull, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, was remaining neutral in the choice skirmish: "I think there is no question that our candidates [Obama and Clinton] are fully pro-choice and will both appoint judges who are pro-choice and both will lead on that issue."

John Edwards' response to Clinton's "emotional" moment in a New Hampshire coffee shop -- when he said what the country needs from a "commander-in-chief is strength and resolve" -- caused more conflict, especially his inference that Hillary Clinton might not be "tough" enough. "[Republican candidate] Mitt Romney, as I recall, got misty-eyed, and everybody thought, isn't that wonderful, he really cares," the Clinton campaign's Ann Lewis told me in Manchester on primary day. "And if a woman gets misty-eyed, John Edwards says, a commander-in-chief has got to be tough."

"We are tripping all over ourselves and we will learn a lot," said Kate Michelman of the Edwards campaign, whom I reached at her Washington, D.C. home on Saturday. "And sometimes, these lessons are painful ... I will be honest, I was pained by what John Edwards' immediate response was...."

While Edwards stood accused of sexist opportunism, Hillary Clinton has recently been accused of racial insensitivity in remarks that she and her advisers have made about several topics, including the victories of the civil rights movement. A comment by Bill Clinton -- that Obama's campaign story of early and sustained opposition to the Iraq war was a fairy tale -- saddened Democratic commentator Donna Brazile. "As an African-American," she said, "I find his words and his tone to be very depressing." Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton said she was "personally offended" by the way her comments about Martin Luther King Jr. had been portrayed. She accused the Obama campaign of being divisive.

Fault lines also appear generationally, with some younger feminists expressing opposition to the notion of making Hillary Clinton's gender a primary consideration when choosing which candidate to back. And on it goes.

Because the party's various constituencies are reflected in the very appearance of the top candidates, the moment is rich with promise as well as fraught with the danger of division. "We're at a moment of change: generational change, social change, and even in the way we look at social change, and what has to come after this," Michelman observed.

Each of the women interviewed for this piece said they chose their candidate based on their own feminist values. Michelman, who led NARAL for nearly 20 years, based her decision to sign on with Edwards on his approach to economic issues and his mission to eliminate poverty. To Michelman, who, as a young woman, found herself living on welfare as a single mother, those issues "are the most critical that women face -- the next leg of our journey to full social, economic and political equality."

For Mulhauser, who served as NARAL's executive director in its formative years, her decision to work as a senior adviser to Barack Obama's campaign reflected her comfort with what she sees as his approach to abortion politics compared to that of Hillary Clinton. "He talks about unintended pregnancy as being a problem," Mulhauser said. "Hillary talks about abortion as being a problem and as something that's tragic, and I don't like to think about abortion that way."

Martha Burk, former chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, chose to work for Bill Richardson. "Vis-à-vis Richardson and Clinton," she said, "I thought Richardson was more progressive on a number of the issues, paid family leave being one." But now that Richardson is out of the race, Burk said, there's no question about her next candidate. "I am going to campaign for Hillary Clinton. And yes, in my lifetime, I want to see a woman elected [president]. It's a perfectly legitimate reason to vote for somebody, if you also can believe in what they stand for," she said by phone from her New Mexico home. "I just think it's remarkable that we have gotten to where we have with the campaigns appreciating the feminist point of view."

Ann Lewis, who served as Planned Parenthood's communications chief prior to becoming communications director for the Clinton White House in 1995, would like to see her candidate get a little credit for bringing women's issues into the mainstream debates. "It used to be that the presidential campaigns were about the 'hard' issues -- you know, how tough can you be, how many troops will you have, how hard are you going to fight," Lewis said. "And now we see candidates talking about, 'Can we make a difference in people's lives?' That used to be what you talked about with women, but not with men in the room."

Women have long comprised the majority of voters, Lewis said. "But this is the year in which that has become explicit. You now see article after article saying that women are 54 percent" of the electorate. "Politics is supposedly about the bottom line," she explained. "But this focus and competition for women voters has really burst forth recently, and, and I would think, not coincidentally around Hillary's campaign."

Given the rough-and-tumble nature of primary season politics, it will take some fortitude among feminists to keep our eyes on the prize, and not let the contest override the context. With Obama and Clinton each having won historic victories so far, the contest could last longer than was previously expected. Mulhauser concedes that the gloves have come off. But, she stated, when it's all said and done, "I'd like to think we're all going to behave in ways that are inclusive."

Michelman, too, is eager to help create a feminist presidency for the eventual Democratic nominee. "I would hope that we are going to emerge with a much greater sensibility about how to take the best of each of the elements" of the campaign -- the issues of economics and gender and race -- "and harmonize, integrate them, whether it's Hillary, whether it's Obama, whether it's Edwards. Those are all important ingredients in the feminist vision. I would love to work to bring all these dimensions together and to help shape a [general election] candidacy that doesn't lose these dynamic ideals that are represented."

Martha Burk has no fear of any lasting division. "When you look at the issues that are prominent in the campaign and in the national agenda right now, like more funding for women on Medicaid, like what has happened to the price of birth control on college campuses or Social Security benefits, these sorts of things are core to the feminist agenda and we're united."

Burk says early on, a member of Hillary Clinton's campaign staff called, "asking me if I would consider working for the Clinton campaign. And I said, 'No, I'm already signed on for Governor Richardson.' She was very gracious. Her answer was -- and I've repeated it a number of times throughout the primary season -- 'Well, that's okay, because by this time next year, one of us will be working for the other.'"

Black Women Are Invisible This Election Season

Our national conversation is a messy collision of race and gender, with ageism and the questionable state of our media tossed in as collateral damage.

The 2008 presidential race is making us think hard on everything we thought we knew or felt about our country -- and who we each are in it. But as an American woman of color, an African American, I don't get the feeling too many others are giving much thought to my place.

For the record, women of color are in last place: at the bottom of the charts when it comes to wages (only 68 cents to the white male dollar); at the bottom of the charts in terms of political power (just 14 African American women in Congress, and that includes two non-voting members). We are more likely to die early from almost every disease. Finally, and disastrously for our interests, we remain the least seen and heard in this country, virtually non-existent in positions of power and visibility in media.

Last night on CNN, I participated in a discussion about the cross section of race and gender specifically -- one precipitated by an OpEd written by one of the Women's Media Center founders, Gloria Steinem. The piece, which ran in The New York Times on Monday, titled "Women are Never Front-Runners," included one line that made some people in this country, including some of my friends (black and white), go nuts:

Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House.

The OpEd rocketed through the country -- indeed, the world -- and our office was swamped with requests for statements, elaborations. That's how I came to be in dialogue with Charles Ogletree, the esteemed Harvard Law professor who can claim credit for having taught both Barack Obama and Michele Obama a thing or two while they were his students.

The topic was, in the diluted form required by mass media: what's worse -- being black, or being a woman? My answer of course, was "Both. Imagine how I must feel." The host, Rick Sanchez, said I couldn't sit on the fence, I had to choose.

So, speaking only for myself:
Having spent a lifetime waging battles on both fronts, I believe that sexism is now the more pernicious because it often still resides in our deepest, most subconscious self. It is one that devalues or dismisses or endangers women -- even within ourselves. Gender bias cuts through race and class and age and geography with intent to undermine. And, if you're a woman of color -- even more so.

Whatever one's political bent, Hillary Clinton's run for the presidency has crystallized our stark unfamiliarity with women: never in this country has a woman been so visible; never have our reactions to a woman, positive or negative, mattered as much. And never has our mainstream media been so insanely obsessive -- acting like teenage boys (and they are mostly boys) who don't know what to do when a woman enters the room.

And yet, while a white woman and a black man now run for the most powerful position in world, that fact doesn't yet translate into possibilities for a woman of color. Her disadvantage -- money, connections -- is too deep.

Gloria's essay considered an African American woman with the same credentials as Barack Obama, and concluded that she would not find herself as close to the presidency as he is; that the barrier of gender -- no matter how "charismatic" she was -- would have hobbled her.

But as often happens, as the public debate over the commentary raged, the black girl was soon forgotten.

In almost every conversation I've had about the topic, what is clear is that when people were saying "women" they were thinking white women; when they were saying "black" they seemed to be thinking about men. Few were thinking about women of color.

South Carolina could change at least some of that. As the campaigns surge towards that critical primary state, black women will take on an unprecedented role: perhaps one third of the state's Democratic voters are African American women. The stakes couldn't be higher.

Women Shake Up the NH Primary Predictions

A survey released by Lifetime/Zogby at the end of December and targeting New Hampshire women voters specifies a significant problem for those who would predict the primary outcome: more than 40 percent are undecided as to who will get their vote. The Iowa caucuses indicated that, on the Democratic side, the female populace will lead the primary elections. As all eyes in the nation turn to New Hampshire this Tuesday, we can be certain that some more women have made up their minds as it gets down to the wire, but there are still many undecided voters.

The Every Woman Counts campaign, a nonpartisan effort led by Lifetime Television and made up of roughly 15 million women nationwide, sponsored an "If I Were President" breakfast forum in Manchester this past Saturday. Representatives and supporters for some of the campaigns came to try to convince a roomful of more than 200 undecided women which of the candidates to choose. The many speakers included editor-in-chief of Redbook Stacy Morrison, co-chair of the Obama New Hampshire campaign Mary Rauh, Republican political consultant Mike Murphy, and Elizabeth Kucinich.

Every Woman Counts has three goals, emphasized by Meredith Wagner, the executive vice president, public affairs, for Lifetime Networks. They want to get more women to register, because in the last election 35 million women eligible to vote did not exercise that right.They also want to encourage women to run for office, a step their poll showed that fully 82 percent of women have never considered taking. Last, they want to bring issues women really care about to the forefront. This final goal will be advanced in the coming year with commercial spots recorded by Queen Latifah, who has interviewed women to ask them what they would make possible if they were president.

Some women don't realize that in this political era, they have a communal voice more powerful than ever. "The most political statement you make is how you live your life everyday," Redbook editor Morrison said to the crowd. More and more women, particularly younger ones, seem to be realizing the significance of their voice. It can be heard through women who share their stories, like Carol Shea-Porter, the first woman elected to Congress from New Hampshire, who was present at the breakfast and spoke about winning a campaign on a small amount of money.

With strong female role models in the political spotlight, why have so many New Hampshire women still not made up their minds on whom to vote for? They know which issues are close to their hearts. The poll shows that Iraq and health care are more pressing to New Hampshire women than education, the economy and preventing violence and sexual assault, all of which were high up there for women nationally.

Still, a lot of young women find it overwhelming to pick and choose.

Cristina Sakowich, a young elementary school teacher, says she's undecided because candidates have so many talking points that she becomes "bombarded" and needs a way to sort it out. She does know that she's leaning more towards the Democratic candidates, even though she began as a Republican. What made her change her mind? She says it's because of working in an urban, low-economic community.

Given the demonstrated public desire for change, switching party affiliations isn't unusual. What's perhaps the most intriguing is to see if Obama's victory in Iowa, where 57 percent of the caucus voters were women, will happen again in New Hampshire. The same Lifetime/Zogby poll showed that Clinton leads Obama in the state 39 to 25, but it also said that the "Iowa Effect" could change things, with, overall, one out of every four voters saying she would change her mind if her candidate didn't win in the caucuses. More than 40 percent of those who supported John McCain and Mitt Romney in the Republican primary said they would switch based on the Iowa outcome.

Republican political consultant Murphy says that Obama getting more votes shows that women "discern" the candidate they want to vote for rather than voting for Clinton only because she is a woman. He claims that "the woman's vote is frankly the most powerful now in America" and that they could largely determine the outcome of the election. Martha Burk, a senior advisor to Bill Richardson's campaign, didn't hedge her bet on Saturday morning. Women, she said, "will elect the next president of the United States."

Iowa Voters Reject Front-Runners

A come-from-behind victory can be a potent propellant in politics. That may be the case for Senator Barack Obama, whose strong win in the Iowa caucuses may translate into strong momentum for the New Hampshire primary in four days. It may be more difficult for the Republican winner.

Obama's team succeeded in bringing in tens of thousands of young people and independents who helped double the turnout in the Iowa Democratic caucuses compared to four years ago.

Senator Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for much of 2007, suffered the consequences of that status. Opponents turned the heat on her in debates, political advertising and endorsements. She is the inevitable nominee no more.

Both Obama and Clinton have found their political footing in the past year under the klieg lights, breaking records as the first mainstream black and female candidates in U.S. history. The election of either would mark a dramatic break with the past.

But the Iowa caucuses showed that, at least in the opening vote, Obama corralled the "change" vote. Polls showed the Democrats put a priority on change versus experience by a 52-20 edge and Obama benefited from that. He managed to paint Clinton as a candidate tied to the past, to the Democratic establishment, while portraying himself as a change agent for the future.

Obama gave an inspirational victory speech, talking of barriers already broken in Iowa and challenging New Hampshire voters to carry on the momentum. Clinton, who came in third with 29 percent to Obama's 38 percent of caucus votes, was low-key but steady, losing in the charisma campaign to the euphoric Obama. She put the focus on the general election -- on Democrats choosing someone who is electable and can lead with experience from day one.

Obama not only commanded the under-35 voters, he also won among Iowa women in general by a 35-30 edge, according to polls of Iowans as they entered the caucuses. Clinton led Obama in the category of voters 45 and older. The polls showed that Iowans felt that the economy and the Iraq war were most important, at 35 percent each, followed by health care, at 27 percent.

Obama and Clinton are flush with campaign money, more than enough to fuel their head-to-head combat in coming primaries. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who came in slightly ahead of Clinton, is in far more perilous financial condition.

The situation is dramatically different in the Republican ranks.

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee also scored big as a giant-killer, surging from single-digit support two months ago to clobber onetime Iowa front-runner Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts. But Romney still has plenty of money and is a known quantity in New Hampshire. Huckabee was outspent 15-1 by Romney in Iowa and has run a shoestring campaign nationally, both in terms of funding and political structures. He has to parlay his Iowa victory into new infusions of money and talent.

That is not a given. It isn't clear how his Iowa mandate will translate in other states. Sixty percent of Huckabee's Iowa vote came from evangelicals, a tribute to Huckabee's folksy manner and conservative views honed as a Baptist minister before he went into politics. There are few evangelicals in New Hampshire.

What's more, in recent weeks, Huckabee has morphed into an economic populist, anathema to a core part of the Republican Party and putting him at odds with New Hampshire's fiscal and foreign-policy conservatives who hold dear an anti-tax, small-government platform.

The stunning Iowa results raise questions that will play out in coming primaries:

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New Study Finds Abysmally Few Minority and Women-Owned Radio Stations

In 1976, the U.S. Court of Appeals advised the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it should begin to include race as a factor in deciding which applicants to approve licenses for broadcast media ownership. As a result of the landmark decision, which was of course fueled by the civil rights movement and public pressure, the FCC developed its groundbreaking Statement of Policy on Minority Ownership.

And during its relatively brief 20-year existence, the Minority Policy Statement (as it came to be known) actually worked. But then came the backlash.

Since the mid-1990s the small gains that were made have been consistently rolled back, and minority ownership has plummeted by at least 14% since 1997 according to the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) in Washington, D.C. (The FCC did not even begin to process race and gender-related ownership data until 2003 and even then its numbers were consistently erroneous and incomplete.)

In short, we are "back at square one," says Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps.

Luckily, the Free Press, a Washington, DC media reform organization, has stepped up to the plate to do what the FCC will not.

In 2006 the group released "Out of the Picture," an unprecedented report on broadcast television ownership, which found that women of all races own just 5% of the 1,400 commercial broadcast television stations in America. People of color, who make up 33% of the national population (and will be more than 50% by 2050), own just 3.6%.

Now the Free Press is back with an equally scathing report on the abysmal state of radio ownership.

Its latest study, "Off the Dial (pdf)," released earlier this month, found that women and minorities own just 6 and 7.7% of all broadcast radio stations in the country respectively. This means that listeners in an average radio market have 16 white male-owned stations to choose from, but just one woman-owned and two minority owned alternatives.

"It's not about biology," warns Gloria Steinem, a founder of GreenStone Media, in reacting to the study's findings. "It's about programmers who share the experiences of their audiences. It's about ... culture, and the ethics of the whole industry."

Indeed, today's FCC places no importance whatsoever on minority or women-owned media.

After appointing (under pressure) a 29-member Advisory Committee on Diversity in 2003, volunteers worked for more than a year and a half to present 18 recommendations for promoting minority and female broadcast ownership. But in the ultimate slap in the face, the FCC did not even bother to mention the recommendations in its 2006 notice of proposed rulemaking, says David Honig, executive director of the MMTC, and one of the advisory panel members.

The FCC knows how to improve the situation. "There's no lack of suggestions," says Commissioner Copps. "It's a question of will and determination."

"Even advertisers are dissatisfied," says Steinem, noting that "women still buy 85% of goods at the point of purchase. And yet AM talk radio is so hostile and combative that it's chasing women away, and advertisers can't reach them."

Study after study has shown that minority owners report more local news, have more diverse hiring and management, and ultimately serve their communities better. The latest Free Press report confirms yet again what we already know: diversity in ownership is more likely to lead to diversity in hiring and programming.

By putting media in the hands of impersonal conglomerate owners, we no longer even have stations that are able to warn local residents about nearby emergencies, says Steinem. "Now there's just a closet with a spinning disk in it controlled by somebody thousands of miles away."

"This has to be at least the beginning of a turn upward," she adds. "We've reached the bottom."

Jordanian Journalist Breaks Taboos Campaigning Against Violence

Dua Khalil is stoned to death in Iraq for being seen with a man of another religion. A woman is shot dead in Jordan after her photo appears on her brother's friend's cellphone. Muqadas Bibi's throat and those of her young sisters are slit by her stepfather in Pakistan after she leaves her abusive husband. Every year, across religious and national boundaries, around 5,000 women and girls are murdered by family members in so-called honor killings. "There is nothing honorable in these crimes," says Rana Husseini, award-winning Jordanian journalist and author of the forthcoming Murder in the Name of Honor, who has dedicated her career to exposing and fighting such crimes.

Husseini came across her first case -- a 16-year old girl murdered by her brother -- just a few months after she joined the Jordan Times as a young crime reporter in 1993, having returned to Jordan with degrees from Oklahoma City University. "This girl was a victim five or six times," she recalls. Raped and impregnated by another brother, she was married off to a man 50 years her senior following a secret abortion. The marriage lasted six months. "The day he divorced her, they killed her," says Husseini. They claimed she had deliberately seduced her brother.

Husseini was shocked to discover more and more such stories. The women's killers "would empty a gun, would stab them thirty, forty, fifty times, would burn them..." Although such killings were rarely talked about in Jordan, Husseini felt it was her duty as a journalist and as a woman to document these women's murders. "I wanted to be their voice," she says.

Almost immediately, she encountered a major obstacle -- public ignorance, buoyed up by media silence. At the time writing about these cases was taboo. Around 20 to 25 "honor" killings take place in Jordan each year, according to Husseini, most of them in poorer, densely populated parts of the capital city, Amman. Yet with no stories in the Arabic press, many readers initially claimed that Husseini was exaggerating. Her first such article in the English-language Jordan Times resulted in an angry phone call from a woman intellectual, she recalls. "She was yelling at my editor that I'm tarnishing Jordan's image." Her editors -- both men -- and the newspaper gave her their complete support, without which she believes her work could never have reached the level it has today. Readers, shocked and convinced by her reporting, reacted with calls for government action. A movement began to take shape.

In 1998, Husseini received the Reebok Human Rights Award, the first of many international honors recognizing her work. "This award steered a lot of things in Jordan," she says. It brought visibility -- including, crucially, international media attention and notice by NGOs -- and credibility to Husseini's campaign against "honor" crimes. She joined with others to form the Jordanian National Committee to Eliminate So-called Crimes of Honor, which campaigned to raise awareness and call for legal reform. "We conducted a public movement -- as they say here, a civil movement," says Husseini.

The result has been a near-revolution over 14 years in media dialogue and public awareness. Now, Husseini notes, even the Arabic press in Jordan covers issues such as domestic violence, child abuse and sexual abuse, all taboo in the early '90s. While she would welcome better reporting on the murders themselves, most newspaper coverage, she says, is balanced. She points to the importance of press freedom (introduced to Jordan in the early '90s) and of the Internet, citing a chat on Facebook where Jordanian women discussed "honor" killings. Online, she notes, "people can form lobby groups, they can form pressure groups; it's very important."

While official figures for "honor" murders tend to be lower than those collected by Husseini, the data's very existence is a step forward. "At least the government acknowledges the problem," she says. "This is an important success, because then you can push them to find solutions."

Activists have also joined Husseini's calls for judicial and legislative reform. In a country where the maximum penalty for murder is death, Husseini discovered that "honor" killers tended to be sentenced to only 3 months to 2 years in prison. "If you rob a house you get a higher sentence than for killing a woman!" she notes. Much of this leniency hinges on legal provisions such as Article 98 of the penal code, which allows for reduced sentences when a person kills in a "fit of fury." Killers who planned their crime would turn themselves in, some confessing with a degree of pride, then later, in court, claim sudden rage over a sister's or niece's allegedly bad behavior.

While activists continue to campaign for reform of Article 98, the government did amend a provision in 2001 that allowed husbands who killed allegedly adulterous wives to go unpunished. While this has little practical impact -- it has only been used, according to Husseini, once in around 40 years -- she counts it as an important symbolic start.

While serious flaws remain, awareness-training programs for judges and prosecutors result today in more serious consequences for the murder of women. In a testament to her impact, some judges now even call Husseini after they have issued a strong sentence in such cases. "They come and tell me 'Hey, Rana we issued this verdict,'" she grins.

As for future change, "it's all about civil society and the grassroots," says Husseini. The media has an even bigger role to play. And reform of the male-oriented education system is crucial. "Once you properly teach your children," notes Husseini, "things will change in the future."

Looking to Congress for Justice on Wage Bias and Gender Discrimination

Key congressional Democrats plan to take up the challenge by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to overturn what she called the court's "parsimonious reading" of civil rights laws banning wage discrimination.

In a 5-4 opinion written by the newest justice, Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court said that Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at a Goodyear tire factory in Alabama, waited too long to claim wage discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She would have had to file suit within 180 days of Goodyear's first discriminatory paycheck.

Ledbetter began work at Goodyear's Gadsen's plant in 1979, the only female among 16 area supervisors, with pay similar to those of her male peers. Years later, she found out it had slipped dramatically. Her pay was as much as 40 percent below that of the men when she left in 1998. She made $48,000 a year, $6,500 less than the lowest paid male supervisor.

She filed a discrimination lawsuit, got support from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and won a $3.8 million award from a jury. A judge reduced that to $360,000. And the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the case, saying Ledbetter had missed the 180-day deadlines for filing suit after discrimination occurs.

In ruling against Ledbetter, the Supreme Court threw out decades of established legal principles -- and appeared to ignore a 1991 law of Congress as well. If left to stand, the Alito opinion could cast doubt on thousands of pending wage discrimination lawsuits.

In an unusual move, Ginsburg read aloud the minority opinion. "In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination." She noted that "pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter's case, in small increments; only over time is there strong cause to suspect that discrimination is at work."

Ending her dissent, she said, "once again, the ball is in Congress' court."

Business groups generally applauded the Alito decision, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce saying it "eliminates a potential windfall against employers by employees trying to dredge up stale pay claims."

Civil rights groups and Democratic congressional leaders attacked the ruling as a dangerous setback to civil rights -- and set about drafting a proposal to reiterate congressional intent about Title VII's remedy for systemic wage inequities.

Lead sponsors include the two chairs of the committees with jurisdiction over employment discrimination, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Representative George Miller of California, as well as Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and House members Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia.

Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford, writing in Slate.com, said the Ledbetter decision "basically grandfathers in longtime pay discrimination" and would tell employers to "hide your misdeed for six months and you're not only off the hook, you get to keep cheating."

The challenge now goes to Congress. "Where the Supreme Court interprets a statue incorrectly, Congress can correct it," says Marcia Greenberger, co-director of the National Women's Law Center.

Three decades ago, the late Justice William Rehnquist wrote the opinion upholding the right of employers to deny medical benefits to women who were pregnant. If men could get pregnant, Rehnquist said, they, too, would be denied medical benefits -- so there's no workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Congress responded by enacting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, requiring employers who offered medical benefits to give unpaid leave to pregnant women.

Congress also enacted the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Greenberger said, in both cases "clarifying" congressional intent on Title IX and other civil rights measures.

Justice Ginsburg in Dissent

In Ledbetter v. Goodyear, Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Stephen Breyer. As she did in the recent late-term abortion ruling, Ginsburg read the dissent aloud from the bench May 29, a very unusual step for her and one that New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse described as "an act of theater that justices use to convey their view that the majority is not only mistaken, but profoundly wrong." Justice Ginsburg said from the bench: "Title VII was meant to govern real-world employment practices, and that world is what the court today ignores."

Below are excerpts of her dissent (with citations and footnotes removed):

[Lilly] Ledbetter launched charges of discrimination before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in March 1998 ... In accord with [a] jury's liability determination, the District Court entered judgment for Ledbetter for backpay and damages, plus counsel fees and costs.

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed ... Any annual pay decision not contested immediately (within 180 days), the [Supreme] Court affirms, becomes grandfathered, a fait accompli beyond the province of Title VII ever to repair.

The Court's insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination. Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter's case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee's view ... Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves.

Pay disparities are thus significantly different from adverse actions "such as termination, failure to promote, ... or refusal to hire," all involving fully communicated discrete acts, "easy to identify" as discriminatory. It is only when the disparity becomes apparent and sizable, e.g., through future raises calculated as a percentage of current salaries, that an employee in Ledbetter's situation is likely to comprehend her plight and, therefore, to complain. Her initial readiness to give her employer the benefit of the doubt should not preclude her from later challenging the then current and continuing payment of a wage depressed on account of her sex. ...

Tellingly, as the record in this case bears out, Goodyear kept salaries confidential; employees had only limited access to information regarding their colleagues' earnings.

The problem of concealed pay discrimination is particularly acute where the disparity arises not because the female employee is flatly denied a raise but because male counterparts are given larger raises. Having received a pay increase, the female employee is unlikely to discern at once that she has experienced an adverse employment decision ... Even if an employee suspects that the reason for a comparatively low raise is not performance but sex (or another protected ground), the amount involved may seem too small, or the employer's intent too ambiguous, to make the issue immediately actionable -- or winnable. ...

The Court asserts that treating pay discrimination as a discrete act, limited to each particular pay-setting decision, is necessary to "protec[t] employers from the burden of defending claims arising from employment decisions that are long past." But the discrimination of which Ledbetter complained is not long past. As she alleged, and as the jury found, Goodyear continued to treat Ledbetter differently because of sex each pay period, with mounting harm. ...

To show how far the Court has strayed from interpretation of Title VII with fidelity to the Act's core purpose, I return to the evidence Ledbetter presented at trial. ...

Specifically, Ledbetter's evidence demonstrated that her current pay was discriminatorily low due to a long series of decisions reflecting Goodyear's pervasive discrimination against women managers in general and Ledbetter in particular. Ledbetter's former supervisor, for example, admitted to the jury that Ledbetter's pay, during a particular one-year period, fell below Goodyear's minimum threshold for her position. Although Good-year claimed the pay disparity was due to poor performance, the supervisor acknowledged that Ledbetter received a "Top Performance Award" in 1996. The jury also heard testimony that another supervisor -- who evaluated Ledbetter in 1997 and whose evaluation led to her most recent raise denial -- was openly biased against women. And two women who had previously worked as managers at the plant told the jury they had been subject to pervasive discrimination and were paid less than their male counterparts. One was paid less than the men she supervised. Ledbetter herself testified about the discriminatory animus conveyed to her by plant officials. Toward the end of her career, for instance, the plant manager told Ledbetter that the "plant did not need women, that [women] didn't help it, [and] caused problems." After weighing all the evidence, the jury found for Ledbetter, concluding that the pay disparity was due to intentional discrimination.

Yet, under the Court's decision, the discrimination Ledbetter proved is not redressable under Title VII. Each and every pay decision she did not immediately challenge wiped the slate clean. Consideration may not be given to the cumulative effect of a series of decisions that, together, set her pay well below that of every male area manager. Knowingly carrying past pay discrimination forward must be treated as lawful conduct. ... The Court's approbation of these consequences is totally at odds with the robust protection against workplace discrimination Congress intended Title VII to secure.

This is not the first time the Court has ordered a cramped interpretation of Title VII, incompatible with the statute's broad remedial purpose. Once again, the ball is in Congress' court. As in 1991, the Legislature may act to correct this Court's parsimonious reading of Title VII.

Women Emerge as Powerful Advocates at UN Environment Conference

This month nearly 2,000 government delegates and representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) met in New York for the UN Fifteenth Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-15). After two weeks of negotiation, to the surprise of many and relief of others, the conference ended with no agreement on a non-binding long-term energy policy.

The European Union (EU) and Switzerland rejected the final document, supported by the United States among other member countries, as insufficient to the task of promoting sustainable development while reducing air pollution and the green house gas emissions responsible for climate change.

But despite returning home with no document in hand, a wide range of organizations representing civil society was heard and heeded by policy makers in a forum unique to the CSD that includes women as one of nine representative groups working to educate and affect change. The sentiment within the hallways and meeting rooms was that the Women's Major Group, under the leadership of the Women's Environment & Development Organization (WEDO) as principal facilitator, was the most organized and effective segment of NGOs.

Rebecca Pearl, WEDO's program coordinator for sustainable development, commenting by e-mail on CSD-15, said the women's successes were separate from the rejection of the text. "One of our priority areas was making the connection between gender and energy, and governments were largely supportive of that topic," she wrote, adding that, after years of lobbying and educating, such gender issues as women's access to energy services were far less contentious than, for example, discussions about nuclear energy.

Sheila Oparaocha, speaking for ENERGIA (the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy), a partner with WEDO in coordinating the women's group, noted that the CSD-15 document included more references to women than past texts and that of all the proposed additions, these were the only items to which all governments agreed. The women's group, joining other NGO segments and country delegations, also succeeded in keeping all references to nuclear power as an energy solution out of the text.

"Governments were unable to find consensus," remarked Pearl, on "the always-contentious topic of fossil fuels." Nevertheless, she noted, women will be able to use sections of the Chair's Summary of the proceedings to push their governments to increase women's access to energy services.

In arguing for such access, the women's group emphasized the social face of energy. In Sub-Saharan Africa, energy is delivered by women and girls foraging for wood, a far cry from the image of men on oilrigs, so familiar to Western eyes.

More than a third of the world's 6.7 billion people live in energy poverty, using wood, charcoal and dung for cooking and heating; and nearly a quarter have no access to electricity. In rural locations where electricity is available for a few hours a day, often men benefit for evening leisure pastimes but there is no power for women during the day to help lighten heavy chores, or support income generating activities.

Discussing the effect of climate change, the women's group argued that it "often magnifies gender inequality" since women carry the burden when natural disasters make it more difficult to secure water and fuel.

Thus, the group said--pointing to the example of Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement in Kenya--programs on climate change "often present an opportunity to address deeper inequalities." The time has come, said the group in its statement, for governments to stop merely talking and actually engage women as "active participants in designing and implementing energy solutions."

In their lobbying and other work they stressed the need to make opportunities available for women for technical and scientific education in energy fields and innovative financing to start and build energy-related businesses at all levels. They underscored the necessity for women's representation at all institutional levels, public and private, and for their active roles in making and implementing energy policy.

Oparaocha worries that a focus on climate change threatens to overshadow existing UN targets for reducing and eradicating poverty. With Africa responsible for only 3% of carbon emissions, why, she asked in a phone interview, shouldn't the poor use whatever fuel is made available to them? It is difficult to argue with her reasoning. At the same time, it is the poor who will suffer most from the ravages of climate change hastened by the continued use of fossil fuels around the world.

The rejected CSC-15 document kept fossil fuels prominently in its game plan--with proponents looking back instead of forward--even as the International Panel on Climate Change was warning that we have 13 years to cut fossil fuel emissions or suffer more rise in temperature by the century's end.

This fell on deaf ears, as did Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's address to the CSD, in which he underscored that this challenge is at the top of his agenda and appointed three climate change envoys. WEDO, according to Pearl, is "happy that the EU rejected the text rather than accept a weakened document," and appreciates the CSD format in that it at least allows for discussion of the social impact of climate change. But selection of the chair of the next cycle, CSD-16, was mired in controversy, and so far, Pearl pointed out, the chair and three vice chairs are all men. "We await the fifth," she added. "It better be a woman!"

Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Norwegian prime minister, spoke to the CSD in her new role as UN climate envoy. She recalled the groundbreaking report, "Our Common Future," which 20 years ago, under her leadership, defined for the world the concept of "sustainable development."

The business as usual with a slight adjustment outcome of the SCD-15 deliberations reflects the complexities of convincing the developed and developing countries, and countries in transition that we must change our behavior or nature will change everything for us.

In the words of Brundtland, "It is irresponsible, reckless, and deeply amoral to question the seriousness of the situation. The time for diagnosis is over," she said. "We need to start now to build a global regime that will be effective," she concluded. "You may think we may fail, but I believe we will not, because failing is not an option."

In Defense of Hip-Hop

"Hip-hop is the CNN of the ghetto" -- words spoken by legendary artist Chuck D of Public Enemy years before Puffy became a household name and bling a term used by actual CNN anchors. Serving as a mirror to such societal ills as poverty, injustice, drugs and violence, hip-hop -- or more specifically rap music -- has brought realities of urban life and mainstream systematic privilege to the forefront of discussion.

MCs, aka rappers, have opened wounds that many would prefer remained covered via methods that both educate and entertain. Now this mechanism for empowerment and communication is under attack yet again.

While Don Imus searched for a defense against his use of the now notorious words "nappy headed hos" in reference to the Rutgers women's basketball team, he was successful in scapegoating the often-targeted genre of hip-hop. But what Imus and the average citizen fail to grasp is the foundation of this culture or the notion that what you hear on radio airwaves and see on TV doesn't encompass the plethora of diversity within the music.

For several years I've worked within the hip-hop industry in a multitude of capacities. From my vantage point at record labels, recording studios and finally as a music journalist, I've had the honor of sitting down and picking the brains of many hip-hop poets. And poetry and expression is exactly what they produce: words and ideas conjured over the hottest beats. Rappers take complex ideas and transform them into catchy lyrics and rhyming sequences with astuteness and intense precision. Imagine the endless boundaries of MCs if they were all given equal access to education and opportunity that we espouse but rarely see in this country. A chance to pursue the American Dream is precisely what rappers under attack have worked to achieve.

Take a look at the 50 Cents and Jay-Zs of the world. Self-made millionaires, they battled extreme circumstances and in the process established companies that employ and empower others shut out of corporate America. In response to the ongoing controversy, several people have stepped forward. "We are proactive, not just reactive to the Don Imus so-called backlash," explains Dr. Ben Chavis, president/CEO of Russell Simmons's Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, after he and Simmons made recommendations for the recording industry to bleep the words ho, bitch and nigger on the airwaves and on clean CDs.

"The truth is misogyny is not a hip-hop created problem. Misogyny is a deep-seated American society problem that is embedded in the historical evolution of the United States as a nation." The recommendations are meant, he says, to forestall governmental intrusion "on the rights of artists in a democratic society. This is important, and there are some in the media that just don't get it. Self regulation by the industry is not censorship. Good corporate social responsibility is not censorship."

The shift in dynamic from Imus to hip-hop utterly amazes me. Granted I don't condone use of words like ho and bitch towards myself or any other woman, but I understand along with Dr. Ben that rap music isn't the only forum where we see this.

Why don't we target the representation of women and people of color in Hollywood? Why don't we go after the millionaire and billionaire movie directors/producers of the world who represent minority women a majority of the time as the exotic other or the overly sexualized temptress, and minority men as criminals?

Before blaming everything on one facet, we need to analyze all of pop culture and media representation at large. MCs may have an audience via their music, but until you see a Snoop Dogg or a Ludacris with his own televised programming in mainstream news you simply can't juxtapose Imus and hip-hop.

Until rappers have the kind of major network platform that Imus had and will have again, they are not fair game for attack. On the contrary, we need to explore and criticize why we see so few people of color on these networks or working behind-the-scenes in newsrooms in the first place.

For those that are quick to jump on the criticism bandwagon, do they first understand that rap music's foundation was a check on society? That it was a mechanism for the powerless to speak their mind? Do they understand a history of socially and politically conscious music that was designed to mobilize people?

Even today, this music is a reaction to emotions of anger, frustration and inequity of mostly young minority people surviving in a society where the pendulum of justice swings away from them most of the time. In attempts to curb some of the criticism against this form of expression, moves by Dr. Ben Chavis, Russell Simmons and even Rev. Al Sharpton were aimed at targeting the true culprits behind negative/misogynistic music -- record labels and corporations.

On May 3, Tamika Mallory of Sharpton's National Action Network led a March for Hip-Hop Decency in front of Sony, Universal Records and the Time Warner building in Manhattan. "We cannot allow people to use the concept of freedom of speech and censorship as a shield for those who seek to denigrate any members of our society," she explains. "Freedom of speech is critical to freedom but so is the responsibility that comes with it. We are not saying that rappers or anyone cannot speak in any manner they choose. We are saying that record and media companies shouldn't support it if it crosses the line of sexism, racism and homophobia."

Sounds like a wonderful idealistic thought without a doubt, except for the fact that these companies and media outlets have profited countless billions off the backs of rappers, hip-hop culture and the community. It's incredibly difficult for artist/groups with positive or socially conscious messages like a Dead Prez to get signed, and if they do, never will they see radio spins or record sales like their negative counterparts.

In an industry where marketing and radio promotion departments ensure that only certain albums get proper financial backing to guarantee air play and press, many talented people simply get shelved. Radio stations themselves have specific daily play lists, in effect brainwashing the masses with the same songs and the same messages.

I've had rappers straight out tell me that they wanted to go with a specific single from their album but were forced to go with something else. And others have simply said they put out a single about women and money to reel in listeners to a deeper, profound meaning on the album that might otherwise have been ignored. Interesting isn't it?

These days Don Imus is at his ranch contemplating his next move. Chances are he'll return to the airwaves in some capacity in little time, while the young woman or man using music as a means to escape the all but insurmountable obstacles set in her/his path will find it ever more difficult because the world is now watching with keen eyes.

For those who are new to this genre of poetic expression, I suggest watching the new Bruce Willis/Queen Latifah documentary, "Hip-Hop Project." It beautifully captures the essence of what this culture was, is and should be about. Until critics begin to fully comprehend the many layers of hip-hop, its historical context and place in society, they should listen to what the Godfather of it all said to me the other day -- the man who literally started hip-hop with two turntables -- DJ Kool Herc: "Tell all the geniuses to back off of hip-hop. Leave hip-hop alone."

How Media Mistakes Fueled the High Court Abortion Ruling

[The] partial birth abortion ban is a political scam but [also] a public relations goldmine. ... The major benefit is the debate that surrounds it. -- Randall Terry

So said the founder of Operation Rescue, a militant anti-choice group that blockaded abortion providers, in 2003.

Wednesday's U.S. Supreme Court decision (Gonzales v. Carhart) upholding the federal abortion ban is the fruition of that public relations goldmine. It is a travesty of language bought and repeated endlessly by journalists who were sometimes uninformed and sometimes just too lazy to get it right.


Indeed, the travesty of language around abortion is so pervasive that even Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the decision for the court's majority, in addition to using the inaccurate term "partial birth abortion," also referred to the "abortion doctor" repeatedly in the ruling. Why did he not simply refer to doctors as "doctors," or "ob/gyns"? If another surgical procedure were under scrutiny, would he have he referred to "tonsillectomy doctor" or "hysterectomy doctor"? Of course not. But those who want to take away entirely a woman's human right to make her own childbearing decisions have used the term "abortion doctor" for so long as an epithet that they have succeeded in getting even the highest court in the land to adopt their language.

Such bias is just the tip of the iceberg in the battle over what losing plaintiff Dr. Leroy Carhart has called "partial truth abortion." There is no such thing as partial birth abortion. The term will be found in no medical book. It was coined in 1995 by Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right-to-Life Committee, and former Congressional representative and current Florida appeals court judge Charles Canady explicitly to confuse, horrify, and deceive -- to manipulate language with the intent of sensationalizing the abortion debate. In particular, they intended to take the focus away from the woman in order to place the greater value on the fetus. Leading medical associations all agreed it was a misleading term, but the media never checked their language and by 2001, 90% of articles were using the term without so much as a "so-called" attached. As I reported in my 2004 book The War on Choice, an AP managing editor admitted when challenged that "partial birth abortion" was emotionally loaded, but said they continued to use it because it was instantly recognizable. Another major daily newspaper editor admitted it wasn't correct but said it was easier to use than alternatives.

An almost identical abortion ban was found unconstitutional by a different Supreme Court in 2000. Elections have consequences. Since then, President George W. Bush has had the opportunity to appoint two new justices who are ideologically in synch with the biased language. That shift made all the difference to women today and tomorrow.

Now we have a landmark Supreme Court decision, built upon the counterfeit foundation of a made-up term that the media accepted and used uncritically, and that has propelled the highest court to issue a ruling permitting a law that at a minimum:

1. Does not provide adequate exceptions for a woman's health, which means that a fundamental legal principle of the primary importance of women's health has been overturned.

2. For the first time upholds a federal law that steps directly into the physician's exam room and tells him or her what medical technique cannot be used even if the physician's judgment is that it is the safest to protect a patient's health and future fertility.

3. Will not reduce the number of abortions but will over time, according to the doctors who know women's health best, cause an increase in medical complications, and possibly even deaths.

The public relations goldmine of those who aim for nothing less than to eliminate reproductive justice at all times from all women has paid off for them. Language, after all, has consequences too.

Who Controls the News?

When NBC nightly news execs got the ratings for February and could sense ABC nosing ahead, they decided to do something drastic. They hired a woman.

"Nightly News with Brian Williams" had maintained a comfortable position as number one since Tom Brokaw left in December 2004. But during the last week in February, ABC's Charles Gibson pulled about 9.4 million viewers to NBC's 9.1 million, with CBS at 6.9 million.

Almost as quickly as Nielsen popped out those ratings, NBC executives tossed out John Reiss, Williams' executive producer for almost two years, and hired Alexandra Wallace, a vice president of the network's news division, for the job. Now, the pressure is on Wallace, 41, to put the newscast into overdrive and move it once again past ABC. She is only the third female executive producer for a nightly newscast in the history of network news in the U.S. That's a sorry commentary in 2007 considering the first network newscast aired sometime just after Adam and Eve.

Progress has to start somewhere. Let's just hope three is the charm and she has better luck than her two female predecessors in one of the toughest jobs in the news business. Emily Rooney and Kathryn Christensen, both executive producers for "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings," didn't last long. Rooney held the spot for only nine months in the early 1990s while Christensen worked for Jennings in the mid l990s for just under two years.

Rooney, who had a small child at the time, and whose husband commuted to New York to see her in the first few months, said she "didn't think too much" about the announcement of Wallace's appointment. "There are pitfalls for any executive producer," she said. Rooney's reign was apparently harsh. After three weeks on the job, an ABC executive pulled her aside. Maybe she shouldn't move to New York from Boston where she had been living, he suggested. "They told me this after I had sold my house," said Rooney, who now hosts WGBH's "Greater Boston." Overall, Rooney says she was not valued, and that her advice about stories was often "dismissed."

Christensen talked about her somewhat longer tenure. "Emily was different from me. She came from outside and wasn't familiar with the players. I was at ABC for more than ten years and had worked as a senior broadcast producer." Christensen discussed the challenges facing anyone in network news. "I don't think this is a gender issue. The challenges are the same for men and women." She said it "really is no different in the TV area than in the business world. I'm sure there are men out there who felt they were very deserving of the job and did not get it. The ratings are always an issue, but today it is more intense with the Internet, the declining audience." In her case, there was a management change after two years. "The job shifted for me. Everyone took a step down, and I was given the title of managing editor." Asked about her feelings when she heard a third woman would "rule" a newscast, Christensen was enthusiastic. "I think she will do a great job."

Why did it take nearly ten years for another women to get the job? The networks have given a few women, present and past, opportunities as executive producers, including Phyllis McGrady (ABC's "Prime Time Live"), Susan Zirinsky (CBS's "48 Hours"), Shelley Ross (ABC's "Good Morning America"), and Betsey Fischer (NBC's "Meet the Press"). That doesn't include senior producers of the nightly world who served as acting exec producers for one reason or another-like NBC's Cheryl Gould back in the l980s. Rooney mentioned one important item in the equation: the position "does have a lot to do with the chemistry of an anchor and the exec producer." The camaraderie can go way beyond meetings or traveling on remotes. Getting together to play tennis becomes an opportunity to discuss the program, or just bonding in time spent outside the newsroom is a factor.

Chemistry or not, can a woman executive in the network newsroom bring her own perspective to the job? Quoted in a recent article, Wallace mentioned that as a mother of two, she would no doubt have "a different perspective" but that that she hasn't planned major changes. Christensen agreed. "I'm sure I brought some perspective because I am a woman, " she said, "but I couldn't define what that was. I wanted to make the right choices. So much comes into play, so I don't recall any examples that were different from my male colleagues. I'm sure I had some ideas of optional stories we should cover. Years ago, women's issues weren't covered as they are today."

But that was then, this is now. And at the School of Communication at American University where I work, the total number of graduate and undergraduate majors in journalism and public communication may tell a new story: 797 women and 332 men. If that trend continues, who will fill these future seats in the newsroom? Measuring the situation in those newsrooms today is tricky. The Annual Report of American Journalism, released recently by the Project for Excellence in Journalism along with Pew Research, was able to "look at on-air correspondents who appear in stories" but could not "account for the many . . . producers and assistants who make up so much of television news." Why? Simply because the "networks do not like to release personnel information." The little that is released, according to the report, appears in such directories as the News Media Yellow Book, which tracks leading news organizations.

The media loves giving us the news a lot more than making the news. There is so much written about CBS's Katie Couric and her ratings, but the fact that she was ranked "one of the most admired journalists" by Pew didn't really get that much airplay. Wallace's appointment may herald another breakthrough. Years ago, many women in the network newsroom were not married, and very few had children. Wallace is married. Her children, a daughter and son, are five and three years old.

As we watch Wallace make three the charm, keep in mind all the people behind the scenes who work hard to give you 22 minutes of the world. It's not just your average Joe anymore. It's Joanne.

100-Year Sentence for Second Soldier Convicted of Rape and Murder

Sgt. Paul Cortez, the second soldier to plead guilty to the rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, as well as the murder of her parents and sister, was sentenced on Thursday, February 22, to 100 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. Under the terms of a plea agreement made before the court martial took place, Cortez avoided life imprisonment without possibility of parole in sentencing handed down by the judge, Colonel Stephen Henley.

Instead, confirmed defense attorney William Cassara after the court martial, Cortez, like Spc. James Barker before him, will be eligible for parole in 10 years, in accordance with military regulations that stipulate parole eligibility after 10 years in all sentences of more than 30 years. This contradicts earlier reports that Barker would be eligible for parole in 20 years -- a time limit that applies only to sentences of life imprisonment.

Until all trials in the case are complete, Cortez will likely serve his sentence at either Christian County Jail, the civilian jail where he has been confined since September 2006, or at Fort Knox. After that, said Cassara, he will probably transfer to military prison at Fort Leavenworth and ultimately to a federal prison.

Details of the gang rape and murders continued to emerge during the sentencing hearing. Sgt. Anthony Yribe, against whom charges of dereliction of duty in this case were earlier dropped in return for an other than honorable discharge, told the court how Cortez returned with him to the scene of the crimes an hour or two after the atrocity took place, once local Iraq soldiers reported the deaths to U.S. soldiers at a nearby checkpoint.

Yribe said Cortez reacted strongly to the scene, dry heaving and coughing as he repeatedly had to leave the Al-Janabi house. "I'd never seen him like that before," said Yribe, who at that point was unaware of Cortez's involvement.

In the bedroom, where the bodies of Abeer's parents and sister Hadeel lay, Yribe found a green expended "Baghdad" shotgun round -- a distinctive sign that U.S. soldiers had been present. U.S. investigators were not told of the shell. Cortez said he got rid of it, Yribe reported in testimony later excluded from the legal record for technical reasons.

Several soldiers testified about the harsh conditions under which Cortez and his colleagues served in Iraq. According to an expert witness, Dr. Charles Figley, Cortez may have been suffering from combat stress injuries in the period preceding the crimes, which occurred on March 12, 2006. Cortez, the court heard, had been particularly distraught following the combat deaths of five close colleagues within a few weeks time in December 2005. According to a "Sanity Board" report cited by the prosecution, the experience ultimately resulted in a misguided desire for revenge on the innocent family. In the report, Cortez describes what was going through his mind while he raped Abeer: "(I thought) 'what the f--- am I doing'. At the same time I didn't care either. I wanted her to feel the pain of the dead soldiers."

According to other testimony, Steven Green, an ex-soldier currently being tried in federal court for the rape and murders, was like a "virus" in the unit who frequently expressed a desire to kill Iraqis. "Green should not have been with the soldiers, from day one," said SFC Robert Gallagher, describing him as unprofessional, wearing torn pants that exposed his genitals and having a "thuggish mentality." Gallagher went so far as to kick Green out of his platoon.

"This is the army, and in the army someone always needs to be in charge," lead prosecutor Captain William Fischbach told the court. He pointed out that, despite any mitigating circumstances and influences, Cortez was the senior soldier at Traffic Control Point 2 on March 12, 2006. Without Cortez's active complicity -- to the point of pulling rank to "go first" in raping Abeer -- it is unlikely, argued Fischbach, that events would have unfolded in the fatal manner they did for the al-Janabi family.

Cortez and his attorney have talked about the possibility of his contacting Abeer's family, particularly her surviving brothers, said Cassara, to express his "regrets and horrendous sorrow" at what took place last year. Military sources confirmed that the al-Janabi family has received some monetary compensation, as victims of crimes committed by U.S. service members. Abeer's two brothers, now with their uncle, will continue to live with the loss of their mother, father and two sisters.

Escalation Forces Bush to Resort to Recruiting Convicts

Brace yourself. Bush's Iraq escalation, euphemized as "surge," sends just over 20,000 more troops into that bottomless pit, and flirts with an invasion of Iran. But because Iraq has depleted our armed forces -- and recruitment levels plummet as our population wises up -- Bush's plan requires still more: the entire Army active-duty force must swell to 547,000 over the next five years (an increase of 39,000), and the Marine Corps grow by 23,000 (to 202,000).

Constitutionally, Congress must approve or disapprove the expansion -- but one never knows whether this particular executive branch recognizes that the legislative (or judicial) branches exist.

Meanwhile, Bush simply changes the rules to suit his mad plans, raising the enlistment age to 42, and removing the cumulative limit -- 24 months active duty in any five-year period -- for National Guard Reserve units.

Furthermore, the military will now mobilize units, not individuals, so soldiers who've completed their duty tours, but, perhaps, transferred to a new unit, will still be eligible. Never mind how destructive this is to "family values" or a "sound economy."

Then there's the still-astonishing "moral waiver" -- employed to produce more cannon fodder. In 2005, already desperate for fresh recruits, the Army started increasing, by nearly half, the rate at which it grants what it terms "moral waivers," permitting recruits with criminal records, emotional problems, and weak educational backgrounds to serve.

Afterward, if these recruits survive, they'll be called heroes and released back into society. One returned hero, who credited the military with having "properly trained and hardened me," was Timothy McVeigh. According to the Pentagon, waivers in 2001 totaled 7,640, increasing to 11,018 in 2005.

But those are numbers. How does this play out in lives?

We now know. In March 2006, five U.S. soldiers allegedly stalked, gang-raped, and murdered 14-year old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, slaughtered her family, and burned the bodies. The U.S. military managed to hush the story up until July, then detained the five, immediately scapegoating Pfc. Steven D. Green as the "bad apple" ringleader -- who'd conveniently already been discharged.

Then we learned that Green, a 19-year-old Texas high-school dropout, had enlisted despite three convictions: fighting, plus alcohol and drug possession. Once, the Army would have rejected him.

Now, he was accepted, under a "moral waiver." He got "born again" religiously while being trained to kill legally; got sent to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division's 502nd Infantry Regiment; got shot at; and got discharged for a "personality disorder" after allegedly leading the Abeer massacre.

Yet according to a January 9, 2007 Associated Press story by Ryan Lenz, three months before that massacre, an Army Combat Stress Team in Iraq had diagnosed Green as a "homicidal threat." (We assume they did not mean he was simply a well-trained soldier.) Green sought psychiatric help in December, 2005, pleading he was so angry about the war and so desperate to avenge his platoon friends' deaths that he felt driven to kill Iraqi citizens.

They told him to get some sleep.

According to medical records obtained by the AP, they also prescribed "several small doses of Seroquel -- to regulate his mood." Seroquel's website claims the drug is for "acute mania associated with bipolar disorder." The next day, Army shrinks sent him back to active duty in the "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad.

Three months passed. No psychological follow-up. Then -- eight days after the Abeer atrocities -- Green was suddenly summoned for another exam, diagnosed with an "anti-social personality disorder," and swiftly declared "unfit for service."

An immediate discharge process began. He was shipped home in May, arrested in June, and moved to the U.S. marshal's custody in Louisville, Ky. (for proximity to Ft. Campbell). There, in November, he was arraigned on numerous counts, including premeditated and felony murder, which carry a minimum life sentence and possible death penalty.

Green's alleged "followers" face courts martial on various charges, and they may be allowed to plead to lesser counts and punishments; so far one has been convicted and sentenced. But Green's trial is federal, in U.S. District Court, since his well-timed discharge means he isn't the military's problem. In effect, Green seems to have been legally triaged.

As the WMC's on-site reporter noted, Green, who pled "not guilty," is represented only by the Louisville public defenders' office. Yet, oddly, the prosecution team includes Brian D. Skaret of the U.S. Department of Justice Domestic Security Section, in Washington, DC.--a section primarily charged with prosecuting smuggling, border violations, and foreign nationals accused of supporting terrorists.

Is Washington that eager to ensure that culpability for these crimes won't be traced back to the Pentagon or White House?

Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, psychiatry counsel to the Army Surgeon General, defends treatment policies for emotionally or psychologically distressed soldiers, but won't discuss Green -- nor will the 101st Airborne Division.

According to documents viewed by the AP, when Lt. Col. Elizabeth Bowler -- an Army reservist psychiatrist who took over the Combat Stress Team in January -- recommended Green's discharge, her final evaluation stated: "Green exhibited no traits that would indicate dangerously erratic or homicidal moods."

This was after the rape-murders-burnings, and despite Green's cries for help.

The military -- especially the Army and Marines, with the most personnel in Iraq -- has been criticized for sending troops diagnosed mentally and emotionally unfit back to combat duty, often under medication prescribed for too short a time to have taken effect.

As for moral waivers, instead of dropping them entirely -- as morality would dictate -- the Pentagon issued new guidelines in November. Some prevent personnel with certain "pre-existing mental problems" from deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan (but not elsewhere), and: "Mental illnesses that are not expected to be resolved in one year will be cause for discharge."

One year? Green was on active duty for less than one year.

Weep not only for Iraqi civilians. Weep for ourselves.

Social scientists have repeatedly charted how post-war domestic-violence rates soar, as returning vets (including those who started out sane) try to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder plus reflexes trained to react with lethal force. Spousal battery, marital rape, child sexual abuse, child battery, homicides, and suicides rise precipitously in the wake of wars -- especially those with intense ground combat and high casualties.

Less than a month ago, between Christmas and New Year's 2006, five U.S. soldiers committed suicide upon being informed they'd been ordered to serve an additional tour in Iraq.

Bush keeps warning, "If we don't fight 'em in Iraq, we'll have to fight 'em here at home." Presumably, he means the pre-U.S.-invasion, nonexistent terrorists in Iraq, not our own armed forces.

But given his escalation, his hunger to sacrifice more lives, his extended active-duty tours, and his continuing "moral waivers," what behavior might we really expect when those 547,000 GIs and 202,000 Marines eventually return home?

And long before then, who will listen to their cries for help, or monitor what acts they commit -- before they are triaged, discharged, and hung out to dry?

This report continues the Women's Media Center series and organizing campaign focusing on the crimes against Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and their implications for the U.S. military and foreign policy. For more of the Iraq Series, go to WMC Campaigns .

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