Donors Pledge $1.24 Billion to Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda Still Active
The United Nations (UN) issued a report yesterday stating that al-Qaeda has set up new training camps in eastern Afghanistan. The UN group that monitors financing links with al-Qaeda stated that new camps have been activated along the Pakistani border, and they called on the international community for stronger and more coordinated efforts to battle al-Qaeda, the BBC reports. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was quick to downplay the report, telling the Associated Press that he was “certain there are no large-scale camps of training of al-Qaeda or terrorists in Afghanistan.” But he acknowledged that there definitely are individuals and small groups who are still active in the country. Yesterday, two US soldiers and their Afghan translator were wounded when a grenade was thrown at their vehicle, AP reports.
Karzai was in Oslo yesterday for a meeting of donor countries at which 23 nations pledged $1.24 billion to Afghanistan for 2003, which could be increased to as much as $2 billion, according to Reuters. The UN had appealed to the donor countries for $815 million, asking them to “invest in the recovery and security of Afghanistan,” according to a UN release. Many view the UN appeal as an underestimate of the needs in Afghanistan. Karzai appealed to the donors for long-term reconstruction aid to help rebuild the country’s roads and infrastructure, AFP reports. Norway’s Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, urged the Afghan government to focus on improving the status of women in the country, saying “the situation for women in Afghanistan is improving but there is still a way to go,” according to AFP. Human Rights Watch released a report yesterday stressing the challenges facing women in post-Taliban Afghanistan; however, Karzai rejected the report’s claim that progress in women’s rights was deteriorating, according to AFP.
Security remains a crucial issue in ensuring the rights and safety of Afghanistan’s women and girls. President Bush recently signed the Afghan Freedom Support Act of 2002, which authorizes $2.3 billion in aid to Afghanistan over four years and $1 billion to expand international peacekeeping troops. The Act also includes language by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that makes Afghan women a funding priority, earmarking $15 million each year for the Ministry of Women's Affairs and $5 million each year for the Independent Human Rights Commission. However, the Bush Administration’s 2003 budget forwarded to Congress does not include any funding for Afghan reconstruction or expansion of ISAF. This authorization is a major step in securing the funding necessary for Afghan reconstruction and security. The funds must still be appropriated by Congress when it convenes next year, and the Bush Administration must take action to support the expansion of international peace troops within and beyond Kabul.
10/31/2014 Federal Judge Exempts Another Catholic University from Birth Control Coverage - A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Ave Maria University, a Catholic university in Florida, does not have to comply with federal rules meant to ensure that covered employees can exercise their right to obtain birth control at no cost.
The Affordable Care Act requires all new health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives - such as the pill, emergency contraceptives, and IUDs - without charging co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. . . .
10/31/2014 Women of Color in Tennessee Are United in Opposition to Amendment 1 - Just days before the general election in Tennessee, a coalition of community leaders, clergy, and advocates led a press conference encouraging women of color to vote no on Amendment 1, a dangerous and far-reaching measure on the state's ballot.
SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
"We assemble today to impress upon black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote," said SisterReacher Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott at the event.
SisterReach has been educating voters about the particularly dangerous impact of Amendment 1 on women of color. . . .
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. . . .