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.
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. . . .