Afghan Talks Resume, Taliban Drug Trade Connection Reported
Peace talks between Afghanistanís fundamentalist Taliban militia and northern opposition groups resumed today, with no mention of the Talibanís violations of womenís human rights. Talks had stalled Monday when the Taliban and opposition groups disagreed on qualifications for Islamic scholars, or ulema, who will work on a peace commission that will govern Afghanistan. Taliban officials demanded that ulema must have graduated from a recognized Islamic seminary, while opposition groups pushed for allowing scholars and tribal leaders onto the commission.
The Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Conference Ibrahim Saleh Bakr told reporters that the two sides have agreed not to veto any of the proposed delegates. The Organization of Islamic Conference and the U.N. are co-sponsoring the talks, which were first brokered by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson.
Taliban officials are funding their war with revenue received from one of the largest opium and heroin production trades in the world, according to the UKís ITN news. More than 95 percent of Britainís heroin comes from Afghanistan or Pakistan. ITN reporters were shown permits obtained from the Taliban which allowed drug traffickers to move in and out of the Afghan border.
U.S. government narcotics experts met with Taliban officials last week to discuss poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. Poppies grown by Afghan farmers in 1997 produced more than 2,800 tons of opium, which can produce 280 tons of pure heroin.
The fundamentalist Taliban militia gained control of Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, in September 1996. Since they gained control, the Taliban has issued decrees prohibiting women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a husband, brother or son, forbidding girls from obtaining an education and denying women adequate access to healthcare. The U.N. has refused to grant recognition of the Taliban as the official ruling power in Afghanistan until womenís human rights are restored.
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Media Resources: ITN, Reuters, AP - April 29, 1998
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .