Taliban soldiers on Tuesday seized United Nations World Food Program warehouses in Kandahar and Kabul. Brandishing guns, the soldiers entered the buildings and ordered staffers to leave. No one has been reported injured. The food warehouses stored a total of 7,000 tons of food. The Taliban has since returned to WFP the warehouse in Kabul. According to a WFP spokesperson in Peshawar, Pakistan, “it looks like everything is intact.” The warehouse in Kandahar is still under Taliban control.
U.N. Security Council president, Richard Ryan ordered the Taliban to “stop threatening the safety and security of aid workers…[and] cease obstructing aid destined for the Afghan people.” Ryan also noted that the humanitarian crisis predominately affected Afghan women, girls, and children. The United Nations has estimated that up to 7.5 million Afghans would be in need of humanitarian assistance, including food aid. Relief workers estimate that 50,000 tons of food per month will be needed to alleviate the crisis, but the WFP ships only about 900 tons of food into the country daily. The U.S. military is also dropping food rations and have increased the number of daily rations from 37,500 to 70,000 per day. While the air drops have clearly benefited a few, relief agencies have criticized their effectiveness as the drops can only meet less than 1 percent of the need.
Even though food is desperately needed in Afghanistan, the U.N. Drug Control Program reports that fields are being cleared in Taliban-controlled areas for the cultivation of poppy instead of wheat. According to experts, the Taliban collects billions of dollars in profits from the trafficking of heroin and opium. Those profits are used to finance their regime and its military supplies. Since September 11, the export of heroin out of Afghanistan has increased by 400 percent. Severe poverty has now caused farmers, who usually borrow money to buy poppy seeds to plant, to trade their daughters, some as young as 10 years old, for seeds or for loan forgiveness. Currently, the Taliban produces 70 percent of the world’s supply of heroin, and the majority of heroin in the United States and in Europe originates in Afghanistan.
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. . . .