The House Government Committee has just released e-mails from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff which indicate that Abramoff tried to use his connections with then White House Political Director Ken Mehlman (who is currently the chair of the Republican National Committee) to have State Department employee Allen Stayman fired. Stayman was advocating for labor reforms to improve the working conditions within sweatshops in the US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, which is exempt from US minimum wage requirements and most provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The emails show that Abramoff, who was working as a lobbyist for the Northern Mariana Islands and its garment factories, asked Ken Mehlman to fire Stayman, the Los Angeles Times reports. Mehlman has denied he had a role in firing Stayman, but, although the State Department fought the firing, Stayman was fired within four months of the sent emails, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Ms. magazine wrote a long investigative report showing how Abramoff worked to prevent labor law reforms to raise the minimum wage to US levels, eliminate long work hours, and stop high "recruitment fees" that workers must pay upon hiring. By maintaining these poor working conditions for a predominately female workforce, Abramoff served his clients, the Northern Mariana Islands and their sweatshops.
The emails show numerous ties between Abramoff and the White House; previously, Abramoff’s ties had been thought to be mostly with Congress. The Los Angeles Times reports that Abramoff had more than 400 contacts at the White House. The White House has denied any close relationship with Abramoff. The e-mails also indicate several other allegedly unethical dealings between Abramoff and high-level White House officials.
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. . . .