At a two-day conference this week in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told international donors his country’s reconstruction may now cost as much as US$15 billion to US$20 billion, according to new estimates. Citing agricultural devastation, decrepit infrastructure, and widespread fighting throughout the region, Karzai told attendees, “The needs of Afghanistan as we know it today are much greater than what was estimated for us in the Tokyo conference,” reported the Associated Press. UN envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi agreed, adding, ”Security must improve this year. Failing this, the recovery and reconstruction process…risks being undermined.” To date, international donors have given US$2 billion of US$4.5 billion promised over five years.
Amnesty International (AI) released a report yesterday urging overhaul of the country’s police force. Citing documented instances of police brutality, arbitrary arrest and bribery, AI reported a critical need for police supplies and equipment as well as “in service” training. Germany has assisted with policing training, but only for the academy in Kabul, according to the New York Times.
With winter in Afghanistan coming to an end, hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees are returning home from Pakistan, according the UN High Commissioner for Refugees earlier this week. The agency expects roughly 600,000 refugees to return this year, down from 1.5 million last. However, the outlook in Afghanistan remains bleak. According to the Times, student enrollment at madrasas, or Islamic religious schools, are anticipating growth, recruiting children refugees—many of whom have resorted to collecting recyclables in garbage. The Times reports that roughly 60 percent of an estimated 10,000 madrasas are operated by the radical sect Deobandi that created the Taliban.
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. . . .