Afghan Talks "Suspended Indefinitely;" Fighting May Resume
Peace talks between the ruling fundamentalist Taliban militia and the northern opposition, which controls the remaining 15% of the country, have been suspended due to disagreement over road blockades and the establishment of a governing council composed of Islamic scholars.
The Taliban has refused to remove the blockades, which block foreign aid to the country, until the governing council is established. The blockades have caused at least 100 starvation deaths and may kill thousands more. A spokesperson for the northern opposition has urged the U.N. to pressure the Taliban into removing the blockades.
According to an Associated Press article, both the Taliban and the northern opposition have prepared for "intense" fighting by organizing thousands of troops and collecting ammunition.
The U.N. and U.S. have refused to grant recognition of the Taliban as the official ruling power in Afghanistan until women's human rights are restored. Despite U.S. and U.N. commitments to women's human rights, the peace talks have not addressed the gender apartheid which has resulted in women and girls being stripped of their rights. Since the fundamentalist Taliban militia gained control of Afghanistan's capital city in September 1996, 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. Links.
11/20/2014 Federal Appeals Court Rejects Priests for Life Challenge to Birth Control Coverage Rule - In a victory for women's health, a unanimous panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Friday rejected a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptive coverage benefit brought by Priests for Life, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington and other religiously affiliated non-profit organizations.
Judge Nina Pillard, a former law professor who was nominated to the DC Circuit by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in December, wrote the opinion for the Court, which found that the ACA birth control benefit did not substantially burden or violate non-profits' religious freedom.
Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies must cover the full cost of all FDA-approved contraceptives - including the pill, IUDs, and emergency contraception - without requiring co-pays or cost-sharing. . . .