Three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot were found guilty of "hooliganism" and sentenced to two years in prison today in Russia. The maximum sentence for the charges was seven years. In a case that has garnered international attention, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Marina Alyokhina, 24, have been in jail since March, when they were arrested after performing (video) a "punk prayer" on the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in dissent of Vladimir Putin.
The members entered the church wearing bright colors and balaclavas, singing "Mother of God, Blessed Virgin, drive out Putin!" They noted later that their intent was to challenge the Church's political support for Putin and to show their dissatisfaction with Putin's 12-year political dominance.
The Associated Press reports that Boris Akunin, one of Russia's best known authors, said: "This is all nonsense. I can't believe that in the 21st century a judge in a secular court is talking about devilish movements. I can't believe that a government official is quoting medieval church councils."
Musicians, activists and human rights groups worldwide have been standing in solidarity with Pussy Riot both online and in the streets. Amnesty International has named the women prisoners of conscience, and artists including Sting, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bjork, Madonna, and Chloe Sevigny have been speaking out in support. Activists have marked August 17 as Pussy Riot Global Day and are staging solidarity protests all over the world. Although the women have experienced an outpouring of international support and solidarity, opinion polls indicate that Russians themselves are not very sympathetic. The case has shed international light on the Russian government's intolerance of dissent.
In her closing statement at the trial, Alyokhina said, "I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this 'so-called' trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass."
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .
10/30/2014 UPS Switches Pregnant Worker Policy Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The United Parcel Service (UPS) is changing its policy on light duty assignments for pregnant workers, even though the company will stand by its refusal to extend accommodations to a former employee in an upcoming Supreme Court case.
UPS announced on Monday in a memo to employees, and in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court, that the company will begin offering temporary, light-duty positions to pregnant workers on January 1, 2015. . . .
10/30/2014 North Dakota Medical Students Speak Out Against Measure 1 - Medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences are asking North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1, a personhood measure on the state ballot this fall.
The students issued published a letter in the Grand Forks Herald stating that they opposed Measure 1 in part because they are against "the government's taking control of the personal health care decisions of its citizens." Nearly 60 UND School of Medicine students signed the letter, citing concerns over the "very broad and ambiguous language" used in the proposed amendment, which has no regard for serious and life-threatening medical situations such as ectopic pregnancies.
Measure 1 would change the North Dakota state constitution to create an "inalienable right to life" for humans "at any stage of development" - including the moment of fertilization and conception. . . .