Archive | Current Events

Tymoshenko Case May Disrupt Euro Cup

I’ve long admired former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko for her fiery rhetoric and steely nerve. But even as she languishes in prison, Tymoshenko might be about to engineer her most significant political coup yet: a boycott of the upcoming Euro 2012 soccer tournament by European governments.

With the signature blond braid that sits – crown-like – above her head and her glamorous, almost regal bearing, one could easily mistake Tymoshenko for pure political window dressing. But that would seriously underestimate this woman’s power and influence. Tymoshenko played a major role – alongside her onetime ally Viktor Yushchenko – in spearheading Ukraine’s 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution. Subsequently, she served as prime minister of the country from 2007 to 2010, when she narrowly lost an election to current president Viktor Yanukovich.

Tymoshenko’s fortunes changed last year when she was jailed for seven years over a controversial natural gas deal with Russia during her tenure as prime minister. Many – including Tymoshenko herself – viewed her arrest and imprisonment as a crackdown on political opposition in the Ukraine as well as retribution by Yanukovich against his main political rival.

Since April of this year, however, her situation has deteriorated significantly. She is now on a hunger strike following what she claims was a brutal beating April 20 by prison guards, who she maintains punched her and twisted her arms and legs while forcibly taking her to a hospital to be treated for chronic back pain. She has refused any medical treatment beyond pain killers to date, insisting that she must have her medical treatment abroad. German doctors who have examined her say that she is in “urgent need of specialized care” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has publicly requested that the Ukrainian authorities send her to Germany for “proper treatment” of her ailments.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

Image: Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by European Parliament via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Sex, Maids and Videotape: L’Affaire DSK

Sex scandals rarely die and disappear. They’re usually far too salacious, improbable and/or disturbing for that. Which is perhaps why I find myself secretly delighted to see the sexual escapades of former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn back in the news.

Remember Strauss-Kahn? He was that very distinguished international statesman whose career came to a screeching halt last May when he was accused of raping a maid  – Nafissatou Diallo – at an upscale hotel in New York City. While the criminal case against DSK (as he’s known in his native France) was dismissed last summer due to questions about Ms. Diallo’s veracity, she subsequently brought a civil suit against Mr. Strauss-Kahn for sexual assault.

DSK tried to prevent this civil suit from going forward – pleading diplomatic immunity . But on Tuesday a Bronx Judge ruled against this “Hail Mary” pass on DSK’s part, and will allow the suit to proceed. Among other things, an entirely new set of legal proceedings will require the Frenchman to return to New York for a series of depositions on the initial alleged crime.

In short: Game on.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog


Image: IMG_6810-Edit by Christian, un marito via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

War On Women 2.0: Jobs

Slate political columnist Dave Weigel boldly declared last week that “the War on Women is over.”

He was referring to the political firestorm that erupted when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen suggested that Ann Romney couldn’t possibly speak for women in this country because she’d “never worked a day in her life.” Weigel’s point was that the WoW talking point – which had served the Democrats so well through the personhood and contraception and slutgate wars  – was now dead in the water, as everyone (and their mothers), left, right and center, jumped in to defend the noble work that stay-at-home moms do.

But in the war over women voters, there wasn’t even a brief lull.

In a series of appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Geithner repeatedly refuted the claims made by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s camp that women have been the biggest losers under President Obama in terms of jobs. Specifically, Romney had argued earlier in the week that 92.3 percent of job losses since Obama took office were suffered by women, something one of his advisers characterized as “setting us back 20 years.”

Geithner called the GOP claim “ridiculous and very misleading,” arguing that Republicans were selectively reporting job losses for part of the recession in order to attack the president. Specifically, he noted that when the recession began back in 2008 under President Bush, it was men in industries such as construction and manufacturing who took the biggest hit. Subsequently, after Obama entered office and the government was forced to cut spending, women in fields such as teaching were also squeezed.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog


Women on Assembly Line Stamping Hams by Wisconsin Historical Images via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Sex And The Secret Service

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only person caught partying in Colombia. On Saturday, 11 Secret Service agents were placed on administrative leave amid allegations that the men brought prostitutes  into their rooms while on detail for the president’s summit in Cartagena.

The idea of American law enforcement officials paying for sex with prostitutes is hardly new. Just ask former New York governor Elliot Spitzer, who resigned from office in 2008 when he was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a highly paid prostitute. (Spitzer was recently awarded with an anchor slot on Current TV. Hey, we’re a forgiving country…)

But with Spitzer – self-righteous as he was when he was fighting prostitution rings as State Attorney General – we always knew that he was a person underneath – fiery and passionate, if not a tad hypocritical. With the Secret Service, in contrast, these men are trained – indeed, required – to be almost invisible. There’s something almost asexual about the tight-lipped, black-suited guardians who pledge to give their life, if need be, to protect the president.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog


Image: Bad-Ass Secret Service by djwhelan via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Marrying Your Rapist: A New Low For Women’s Rights In Morocco

The timing couldn’t have been more tragically ironic. As women the world over gathered last week to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day, women in Morocco gathered to protest the deathof a 16 year-old girl who took her life after being forced to marry her rapist.

The women’s rights activists were there on behalf of Amina al-Filali, a teenager from the small town of Larache, near Tangiers, who died the previous Saturday after drinking a lethal amount of rat poison. Amina committed suicide following what her father described as a series of brutal beatings by her husband, whom local authorities had pressured her to marry after he allegedly raped her. Witnesses say her husband became so outraged when she drank the poison he dragged her down the street by her hair. She died shortly afterwards.

The Moroccan penal code was updated in 2004 to give women greater rights. But in the case of rape, the burden of proof is often on the victim to prove that she was attacked or risk prosecution for debauchery. While rape is punishable by five to 10 years in prison under Moroccan law, it rises to between 10 and 20 years if the victim is a minor. But a rapist can marry an underage victim in order to preserve the honor of the woman’s family.

According to the victim’s mother, who claims that she found her daughter lying in the forest following the initial sexual assault at knifepoint: “”I had to marry her to him, because I couldn’t allow my daughter to have no future and stay unmarried.” Apparently, the local court concurred, and pressured the victim’s father to consent to the marriage despite his own misgivings.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog


Image: Clear legal basis needed to combat violence against women by European Parliament via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Diet Books Dumped in U.K. Protest at Parliament

“There’s not a single part of my body that I’d want to change, even if I could,” a woman commented to me the other night at dinner.

“Liar,” I wanted to say back.

It wasn’t that I didn’t agree with the tenor of her remark. We were discussing the ongoing breast implant scandal in the United Kingdom, which has the government and private medical clinics here squabbling over who should pay to replace faulty silicone breast implants: the companies that put them in, or the government that certified their safety.

My dinner partner correctly observed that the real culprit in the scandal was body image: the idea sold to all of us that we’re meant to look a certain way. And the horrific lengths to which we go — vomiting, starving ourselves, paying inordinate amounts of money to plastic surgeons to add or subtract a curve — to comply with that ideal.

But I don’t really think there’s a single one of us — certainly not female — who hasn’t fallen prey to the lures of an Atkins Diet, a Slim Fast regime or a Weight Watchers program at some point. I have one friend who couldn’t contain her delight when she discovered that her anti-depressant doubled as a dieting pill. “A twofer!” she exclaimed to me giddily over the phone.

Read the rest of this article at The Washington Post’s She The People Blog


Image: scale by vividBreeze via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

What UK’s Breast Implant Scandal Tells Us About Health Care Reform

These days, product recalls are nothing out of the ordinary. From children’s toys to Tylenol, you locate the offending item, send in your receipt, and with any luck, get a refund. But when the recall in question concerns a breast implant – as it does right now in a scandal here in the U.K. – then the process is a quite bit more complicated.

In case you haven’t heard, silicone breast implants made with P.I.P. – an industrial grade silicone – by a French company have now been declared faulty, exposing women to ruptures, leaks and possible risks of cancer. Over the past 12 years, some 300,000 of these implants were sold to women around the globe in more than 65 countries, predominantly in Europe and South America. (The United States banned this product and declared it unsafe.)

The French government has recently recalled all P.I.P. implants and agreed to pay for their removal, but only for women who’d had the original surgery done in France. The British government maintains that the link between P.I.P. implants and cancer is far lower than suggested by French data. It has agreed to pay for any removal on implants performed by the National Health Service (NHS) over the past decade (primarily those linked to breast cancer reconstructive surgery). But this accounts for only about 5% of the 40,000 women who’ve had implants in this country during that time.

As for the remaining 38,000 or so cases, the government is urging private clinics to perform the recalls for free on moral grounds. (As a last resort, the government will step in to pay for removal of implants put in in a private clinic that has closed or is unwilling to provide the service.

And this is where things get interesting.

Read the rest of this story at The Washington Post’s She The People Blog


Image: breast implant 5 by matthewlucas via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Cristina Kirchner In The Hospital: Argentina Panics

Can a woman have too much power?

I’m thinking in this case of the immensely popular Cristina Kirchner, who was re-elected President of Argentina in October of last year in a landslide victory, capturing 54% of the popular vote.

Kirchner was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last week and underwent surgery on Wednesday. And while the initial prognosis is excellent, “Cristina” – as she is popularly known here – will need to be on leave from her duties for three weeks, during which time her vice-president will be in charge.

What’s interesting about this situation is not the popular outpouring of sympathy for Cristina it has inspired. She is a deeply appealing political figure. She’s dynamic. She’s compelling. When Kirchner’s cancer was first announced, #fuerzacristina emerged as a trending hashtag on Twitter. At 1 a.m. on the morning of her operation, supporters assembled in various plazas and squares around the country, and remained there until it was finished.

Read the rest of this article on The Washington Post’s She The People blog


Image: CFK Bunker, Presidential Primary by CateIncPA via Flickr under a Creative Commons License


Wanted: Another ‘Iron Lady’ To Take Britain In Hand

Britain has had quite a time of it over the past few months. Between sluggish growth and persistent unemployment, riots, strikes and the Euro crisis, many are wondering aloud whether what this country really needs is another Margaret Thatcher-style leader who would restore order and stability.

With Meryl Streep’s face plastered all over bus and tube stations advertising the new film “The Iron Lady,” it almost feels like Baroness
Thatcher herself has returned to save the day.

Many of us remember Mrs. Thatcher for her lengthy and dramatic stint on Downing Street in the 1980s, during which time she privatized state-owned industries, crushed trade unions and went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

But there’s another way in which Mrs. Thatcher made herself a household name the world over: she exemplified an unapologetic model for how to be a prominent woman in public life.

Read the rest of this article on The Washington Post’s She The People Blog


Image: Baroness Thatcher portrait by Downing Street via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Why Penn State’s Sandusky Is Not A Grown Up

Like many expats – even journalists like myself – there are certain scandals that erupt in American politics which you choose to ignore, hoping they will go away. After all, there’s only so much room in your brain to process political developments on two continents (plus the rest of the world) at once.

And so you kind of quietly take note of them in the back of your head – thinking “hmmm…I really should find out what all the fuss is about” – until one day, the news just explodes into your RSS feed and you realize that you can remain ignorant no longer.

So it was for me with the recent Penn State scandal – which, for non-American readers – concerns one Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach who has been charged with more than 40 criminal accounts of sexual abuse of minors, which involved eight boys over a period of 15 years. Sandusky has plead not guilty to the charges.

Sandusky’s alleged crimes have become non-stop headlines for the past week or so in the U.S. This is not only because of the magnitude of the charges at hand, but also because they brought about the precipitous resignation of America’s most famous college football coach – Joe Paterno – who stepped down from his post one day before what would have been his last home game of his 46-year career. Paterno was edged out for having looked the other way while Sandusky allegedly molested the boys.

Yesterday, Sandusky gave his first interview – via phone – with NBC’s premier sports journalist, Bob Costas. It’s hard to imagine what Sandusky – or his lawyer – were thinking in granting such an interview. Were they hoping to repair his public image? As Costas says near the end of their nine-minute long conversation: “You realize that for many people, you aren’t just a criminal…you’re a monster.”

Still, if you can bear it – and it isn’t pleasant – do have a listen. Most interesting to me was the way Sandusky answers the question put to him around the eight-minute mark, when Costas asks “Are you sexually attracted to boys?” You can almost hear the verbal somersaults in Sandusky’s reply.

For the purposes of this blog, however, the question that most intrigued me was when Costas asks Sandusky what he most regrets about the entire affair, to which he responds: “I shouldn’t have showered with those kids.”

He’s right. He shouldn’t have.

I don’t mean that sarcastically; I mean it sincerely. We can debate whether or not pedophilia is a crime, a disease or some mixture of the two. To my mind, Sandusky’s crime wasn’t being sexually attracted to young boys. I’m willing to believe that he couldn’t change that about himself.

His crime was allowing himself to be in a physical space that allowed him to act upon those urges. It’s no different that an alcoholic going to a bar. Or someone who’s tempted to cheat on their spouse hanging out on

Except that the consequences of Sandusky’s actions were, of course, vastly more damaging.

Adulthood is about making choices. And accepting the consequences of those choices.

We all make bad decisions from time to time. But if you’re lucky, most of the hurt and pain that flows from the bad choices you make redounds to you. That’s how you learn.

So, sorry, Mr. Sandusky. You failed the basic grown-up test. And sadly, it looks like there weren’t too many grown ups around you either.


2010 Penn State vs. Youngstown State-16 by Mike Pettigano via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.