The War on Women

New York Times
The War on Women

Republicans in the House of Representatives are mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families. And this is just the beginning.

The budget bill pushed through the House last Saturday included the defunding of Planned Parenthood and myriad other cuts detrimental to women. It’s not likely to pass unchanged, but the urge to compromise may take a toll on these programs. And once the current skirmishing is over, House Republicans are likely to use any legislative vehicle at hand to continue the attack.

The egregious cuts in the House resolution include the elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the absence of Title X’s preventive care, some women would die. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health, says a rise in unintended pregnancies would result in some 400,000 more abortions a year.

An amendment offered by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, would bar any financing of Planned Parenthood. A recent sting operation by an anti-abortion group uncovered an errant employee, who was promptly fired. That hardly warrants taking aim at an irreplaceable network of clinics, which uses no federal dollars in providing needed abortion care. It serves one in five American women at some point in her lifetime.

The House resolution would slash support for international family planning and reproductive health care. And it would reimpose the odious global “gag” rule, which forbids giving federal money to any group that even talks about abortions. That rule badly hampered family planning groups working abroad to prevent infant and maternal deaths before President Obama lifted it.

(Mr. Obama has tried to act responsibly. He has rescinded President George W. Bush’s wildly overreaching decision to grant new protections to health providers who not only will not perform abortions, but also will not offer emergency contraception to rape victims or fill routine prescriptions for contraceptives.)

In negotiations over the health care bill last year, Democrats agreed to a scheme intended to stop insurance companies from offering plans that cover abortions. Two bills in the Republican House would go even further in denying coverage to the 30 percent or so of women who have an abortion during child-bearing years.

One of the bills, offered by Representative Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, has a provision that would allow hospitals receiving federal funds to refuse to terminate a pregnancy even when necessary to save a woman’s life.

Beyond the familiar terrain of abortion or even contraception, House Republicans would inflict harm on low-income women trying to have children or who are already mothers.

Their continuing resolution would cut by 10 percent the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, which serves 9.6 million low-income women, new mothers, and infants each month, and has been linked in studies to higher birth weight and lower infant mortality.

The G.O.P. bill also slices $50 million from the block grant supporting programs providing prenatal health care to 2.5 million low-income women and health care to 31 million children annually. President Obama’s budget plan for next year calls for a much more modest cut.

These are treacherous times for women’s reproductive rights and access to essential health care. House Republicans mistakenly believe they have a mandate to drastically scale back both even as abortion warfare is accelerating in the states. To stop them, President Obama’s firm leadership will be crucial. So will the rising voices of alarmed Americans.

Original article posted here:

The Egyptian Revolution engenders values and a new social decade
The Egyptian Revolution engenders values and a new social decade
Saturday 12 February 2011 by siawi

by Nawal El Saadawi

(Translated By Dr. Rabia Redouane, Dept of Modern Languages, Montclair State University)

I have lived to witness and participate in the Egyptian Revolution from Jan 25, 2011 until the moment of writing this essay in the morning of Sunday, Feb 6, 2011. Millions of Egyptians, men and women, Muslims and Christians, from all doctrines and beliefs, are united against the current oppressive and corrupt regime, against its revered top pharaoh who “still holds on to his throne even if shedding his people’s blood”, against its corrupt government and the ruling party which hire mercenaries to kill the youths, against its cheating and fake parliament whose members represent illegal properties, women, drugs, and bribes, against its elites who are called ‘the educated elites’ who sold their conscience and pens , destroyed education, public and private morals and culture, and misled the public and individual opinion to gain temporary interests and ruling positions, be small or big ones.

Young men and children, men and women have spontaneously gone out of their houses, led and protected by themselves , after the security and policemen have failed and the controlling elites of culture and media have crumpled down. After the collapse of the rich and powerful and the self-interested party leaders who have explicitly and implicitly supported the regimes of corrupt dictatorships for about 50 years, opportunism and double-standard and deceiving moral values have fallen down; such values have corrupted both the family and the individuals, spreading chaos under the name of safety, dictatorship under the name of democracy, poverty and unemployment under the name of improvement and prosperity, prostitution and marriage betrayal under the name of morals and freedom of choice, humiliation by and submission to the American and Israeli colonization under the name of aids, partnership, friendship and peace process…such a regime which has jailed those with sincere and creative pens inside cells to separate them and taint their reputation, or send them in to exile inside or outside the country.

Millions of Egyptian, men and women, went out in the streets in all provinces, cities and villages, in Aswan, Alexandria, Suez, Bour Said, and all parts of the homeland. In Cairo, the capital, we have encamped in Meidan al-Tahrir for 11 days, day and night till now. Meidan al-Tahrir has become our land and our camp. We settle on its asphalt and inside tents as a solid entity of men and women…we will never leave our place even though the police, disguised in civilian clothes, attack us and even if al-Meidan is attacked (like what happened on Feb 2) by mercenaries hired by the regime. Those were given bribes (50 EGP and a chick for a soldier, and the bigger one’s rank the bigger the bribe is).They stormed into al-Meidan riding horses and camels, armed with various weapons (red, yellow, and white ones). One of the horses was about to trample on me while I was standing in al-Meidan with the young men. They carried me away from this primitive attack; I saw them with my own eyes moving around in al-Meidan, shooting everywhere. Amid the dust and smoke which surrounded al-Meidan and its surrounding buildings, I saw firing flames flying in the sky, young men falling, and blood shedding. A semi-military war broke out between the regime’s henchmen and the peaceful Egyptian people who were calling for freedom, dignity and justice. But the defense committee of the revolutionary young men managed to fight back those mercenaries and captured some horses and camels and 100 mercenaries with their IDs, among them were state security officers, central security officers, policemen, and some of them were jobless and criminals who were released from prisons. Some of them confessed that they were bribed with 200 EGP and promised with 5000 EGP if they managed to scatter the youths in al-Meidan by using their swords and sharp weapons. They described the youths who led this revolution as “the kids who made the disturbance” using the language of Mubarak’s big heads who gave orders and money.

The young men built their tents in the square to get some rest. Women with their infants lied down on the ground in the cold and rain. Hundreds of ladies and girls, never harassed by anyone, walked proudly feeling freedom, dignity, and equality among their fellows. Christians are participating in the revolution side by side with Muslims. I was surrounded by some young men from Muslims Brotherhood: they said to me “We disagree with some of your opinions in your writings but we like and respect you because you have not acted hypocritically with any regime or force inside or outside the country.” During my walk in the square, people were coming to me, men and women, from different directions, embracing and hugging me saying “Dr. Nawal, we are the new generations who have read your books and inspired by your creativity, rebellion and revolution” I swallowed my tears and said “This is a happy occasion for all of us, a celebration of freedom, dignity, equality, creativity, rebellion, and revolution.”

A young woman, named Rania, “We ask for a new constitution, a civil one, which does not segregate between races, gender, and religion.” Another young man, a Christian named Butrus Dawood, said “We want a civil personal statute which does not segregate between people in terms of doctrine, gender or religion.” A young man named Tariq al-Dimiri declared, “The young men made the revolution and we have to select our interim government and a national committee to change the constitution.” A young man, Mohamed Amin, said “We want to open the People’s Assembly and Shura Council and proceed with honest elections to choose a new president and new popular councils.” A young man named Ahmed Galal said, “We are a popular revolution that puts a new social contract, not just demands, slogan of our revolution.” Free equality, and social justice, who makes revolution is one who puts the new government rules, chooses the transitional government, selects National Committee which changes the constitution, establishes a committee of governors of the revolution so that opportunists (the owners of wealth and power) are not imposed on us. Committees of governors did not participate with us in the revolution, but comes now to us by plane from Europe or America. Among the Egyptians who lived their lives outside or inside the country now come to become leaders of the revolution. We say: “Who did the revolution are the ones who are leading the revolution. Among us governors from young people of thirty years, forty or fifty years of age. We have competencies in all scientific political and economic fields. We are the ones who form a committee of our governors and our government in transition, and the National Committee to change the constitution and laws. A young Mohamed Said said “I feel proud for the first time in my life because I am Egyptian. Despair and depression were gone and defeat was turned into victory. We paid the price of freedom with the blood of our martyrs. There is no power to bring us back.

Al-Meidan turned to an entire city with its facilities, and in the hospital thereabout sleep injured and wounded, doctors and nurses from the masses of young people volunteered, residents volunteered with blankets, medicines, cotton and gauze, food and water, something like a dream and fantasy, I am living with the young men and women day and night. Committees were formed among these young men and women to handle all chores from sweeping the Meidan to transporting the injured to hospital, providing food and medicines, taking over the defense of the Meidan and responding to the lies of the system in the media to nominate the names of the Transitional Government and the Committee of governors, and others. Walls for the houses, institutions and taboos that distinguish between citizens, women and men, Muslim and Christians or others faded. We become one nation, no divisions on the basis of sex, religion or other, all demanding the departure of Mubarak and his trial and his men in the party and the government, the bloodshed on Wednesday, 2 February and all days since 25 January, corruption and tyranny over thirty years of rule […].

Corporate Media Push Wrong Story on Obama’s Relationship With Business

Monday 07 February 2011
by: Rose Aguilar Your Call Radio Segment

President Barack Obama is hoping to “mend ties” with big business by speaking to the US Chamber of Commerce (COC), Washington DC’s top lobbyist. That’s the frame we’re hearing in the corporate media even though the President has extended the Bush tax cuts, recently named JP Morgan Chase executive and former COC board member William Daley as his chief of staff, and chose General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head the new “White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.”

Since 2009, GE has closed more than 25 manufacturing plants in the US and slashed thousands of jobs, according to the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. While GE has laid off at least 10,000 workers in the US, it has created more than 30,000 jobs in India over the past decade. The administration’s job czar runs a company that employs more workers overseas than it does in the US.

During his recent eight-hour floor speech on inequality, tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, and corporate greed, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) cited an investors’ meeting on December 6, 2002 at which Immelt said, “When I am talking to GE managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China. You need to be there. You need to change the way people talk about it and how they get there. I am a nut on China. Outsourcing from China is going to grow to $5 billion. We are building a tech center in China. Every discussion today has to center on China. The cost basis is extremely attractive.”

Since Immelt became CEO in 2001, he has been paid $90 million in salary, cash, and pension benefits, and like most multi-nationals, GE just posted better-than-expected fourth quarter and 2010 profits.

According to the Wall Street Journal, with about half of the largest corporations already reporting fourth-quarter profits, 2010 is expected to deliver the third-best full-year gain since 1998. Chevron’s fourth-quarter profits rose 72 percent. Dow Chemical’s profits rose a whopping 188 percent.

The banks that received $13 trillion in bailout money and subsidies with no strings attached are also posting record profits and paying their CEOs multi-million dollar salaries. According to the New York Times, 2010 was JPMorgan Chase’s most profitable year. CEO Jamie Dimon is expected to take home $17.5 million, while four of his top executives have been awarded stock worth more than $10 million each.

At the recent state dinner with Chinese President Hu Jintao, attendees included Boeing CEO James McNerney, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris and The Carlyle Group Co-Founder David Rubenstein. Even Henry Kissinger, the man who is facing international arrest warrants for war crimes, was there.

And yet The Washington Post claims that President Obama is speaking to the COC to “rebuild ties with corporate America?”

What most media outlets fail to mention is that many of the corporations that fund the COC are responsible for sending millions of jobs overseas and yet they present themselves as the saviors for job creation as long as they continue receiving tax breaks. “And that’s just wrong,” says Sasha Abramsky, a freelance journalist who is working on a book about the COC. “It’s a rewriting of history and the fact that they haven’t been called on it is a major failing among progressive politicians.”

Abramsky says the COC claims to speak for all American businesses and by extension, for all Americans, but it’s important to point out that it’s “got a very sectarian, very narrow agenda.”

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The COC used to claim that it represents “three million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions,” but a 2009 investigation by Mother Jones’ Josh Harkinson found that the number is closer to 200,000. A day after the story appeared, the COC quietly revised its membership number from three million to 300,000.

When most people think of the COC, images of their local Chamber and mom and pop shops come to mind, but according to the Mother Jones piece, “many state and local chambers don’t want the national body to speak for their members. Since 2006, when the Chamber offered to automatically enroll local members in the national group free of charge, only 354 of the nation’s 7,000 state and local chambers have signed up.”

“The US Chamber is the largest lobbying organization in the country,” says Kristy Setzer, communications director of the union-backed watchdog group, US Chamber Watch. “It is not lobbying on behalf of small business owners. It is lobbying to protect the handful of very large CEOs that fund its budget.”

According to the US Chamber Watch, the COC’s more than 100-member board includes CEOs from Dow Chemical, JP Morgan Chase, AT&T, and Caterpillar; just 16 corporations, including WellPoint, Cigna, Charles Schwab, and Hewlett Packard provide 60 percent of the COC’s $200 million budget.

The COC is not required to reveal specific contribution information, so it’s difficult to break down individual donations. In October, Politico reported that the News Corporation, whose holdings include the Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal, donated $1M to the COC.

“That’s probably the most disheartening thing about the Chamber’s business model. It is all so secret. It’s done that way by design,” says Setzer.

She says anonymous contributions allow major corporations to hide behind policy positions that might be unpopular with their customers and the public at large, including repealing the healthcare law, undermining climate legislation, and extending tax breaks to companies that send jobs overseas. Since President Bill Clinton signed NAFTA in 1993, American corporations have shut down 43,000 factories, resulting in the loss of 5.1 million manufacturing jobs, according to Public Citizen.

According to a Bloomberg report, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance lobby whose members include Humana, Aetna, WellPoint, and Cigna, gave the Chamber $86.2 million in 2009 to oppose real healthcare reform. The COC ran TV ads in over 20 states warning that a public option would lead to “expanded government control over your health.”

“By funneling the money through the Chamber,” says the report, “insurers were able to remain at the table negotiating with Democrats while still getting the bill criticized.”

At the March 5, 2009 White House Health Care Summit, where doctors and single payer advocates were arrested for standing up to ask why single payer reform was not on the table, AHIP president Karen Ignagni told President Obmaa he could count on her and the insurance industry. “We want to work with the members of Congress on a bipartisan basis here. You have our commitment. We hear the American people about what’s not working. We’ve taken that seriously,” she said. “You have our commitment to play, to contribute, and to help pass health care reform this year.”

President Obama responded by saying, “Good. Thank you, Karen. That’s good news. That’s America’s Health Insurance Plans.”

At today’s speech to 200 COC members, President Obama said, “I’m here today because I’m convinced we can and must work together.”

“It’s unclear what is more mortifying: President Barack Obama choosing the club of America’s notorious job-offshorers to talk about the importance of creating American jobs, or his rallying of his fiercest political opponents to help him overcome the majority of Americans who oppose more-of-the-same job-killing trade agreements and pass a NAFTA-style deal with Korea that the government’s own analysis shows will increase our trade deficit,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, in response to today’s speech.

“The US Chamber of Commerce audience must have been thrilled to have Obama push more of the trade agreements that both help them offshore American jobs and, given that most Americans oppose more of these job-killing trade pacts, can help them achieve their political goal of replacing Obama in 2012.”

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement will cost 159,000 US jobs within the first seven years after it takes effect. Congress is expected to vote on the deal in the coming months.

Listen to Your Call’s recent show about the COC. We invited the COC and the California COC to join us, but both declined our invitations.


Sasha Abramsky, freelance journalist who is working on a book about the COC

Christy Setzer, spokeswoman for US Chamber Watch