The United Nations announced last week that unless Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia group abolishes its decrees restricting the freedom of women and girls, U.N. aid agencies working in the nation will cease. U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, “We have sent a clear and strong message expressing a common United Nations position.”
Bellamy recently returned from Afghanistan where she engaged in talks with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Rabbani in preparation for U.N. talks that were to be held earlier this week. Bellamy said Taliban representatives asked that the U.N. make an effort to understand their customs and said that Western ideas could not be forced on them. Bellamy told IPS news, “I told them I was representing the United Nations, and wasn’t advocating a Western model, or any particular model they should adopt.” She added, “The U.N. message was not a Western message.”
Bellamy told the Taliban officials that she was not aware of any other country, Islamic or otherwise, that denied girls access to education. While UNICEF and other U.N. humanitarian agencies are still operating in Afghanistan, the UNICEF education program has been suspended.
The U.N. declined to meet with Taliban and other Afghan group officials after Taliban representatives refused proposed talks to be led by U.N. office for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan head Alfredo Witschi-Cestari.
Last month, Witschi-Cestari ordered the temporary termination of aid to Afghanistan as a protest to the Taliban's harassment of U.N. workers, treatment of women and decrees that foreign Muslim women must be accompanied by a husband, brother or son while in public.
U.S. government narcotics experts met with Taliban officials today to discuss the poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. Afghan farmers produced more than 2,800 tons of opium, which can produce 280 tons of pure heroin, in 1997. Taliban officials said that they would be willing to end poppy production in areas of the 85 percent of Afghanistan they control, but that they would need aid to develop new crops. Although possession and trafficking of drugs is punishable in Afghanistan, production of poppy is permitted.
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. . . .