Rogues Gallery | How Jeffrey Epstein, R. Kelly, and Others Evaded justice and Mandatory Prison sentences

Rogues Gallery | How Jeffrey Epstein, R. Kelly, and Others Evaded justice and Mandatory Prison sentences

Since the 2016 presidential election and with the advent of the #MeToo movement, more women have empowered enough to share their secrets - of sexual abuse, harassment, and rape. This movement has elevated the subject of the violation of women and girls to this nation and enjoined them to other countries, and cultures which accept as a norm the abject treatment of women, girls, and boys who are regarded as little more than chattel.

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Introducing U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe | Brian A. Nichols

Introducing U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe | Brian A. Nichols

Brian A. Nichols was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the Department of State. He previously served in this bureau as a Deputy Assistant Secretary from 2010 to 2011. From 2007 to 2010, Nichols was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. From 2004 to 2007, he was Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs in the Department of State Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. 

From 2001 to 2004, he was a Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. Nichols joined the Foreign Service in 1989 and his first assignment was Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru. He has also served overseas in Mexico and El Salvador. He received a B.S. from Tufts University.

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Myth of Reparations | 40 Acres Minus Mule

Myth of Reparations | 40 Acres Minus Mule

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explains how reparations originally stipulated that freed slaves would receive “400,000 acres of land — a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina, to the St. John’s River in Florida, including Georgia’s Sea Islands and the mainland thirty miles in from the coast,” as Barton Myers reports — would be redistributed to the newly freed slaves.”

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Let's Make a Slave | Willie Lynch Letter

Let's Make a Slave | Willie Lynch Letter

In 2019 we should not be discussing the merits of why a presidential candidate’s “slave status” is determinative. Journalists should not need to write about Kamala Harris and how a Tweet posted and then deleted implies that she is lying about being “descended from American Black Slaves,” when they say she actually “comes from Jamaican Slave Owners.” Yet, we are talking about these things, as though these are new, but they are only new to most of us because this history is not taught in public or private schools. It is ironic that a West Indies slave owner, Willie Lynch (from whom the term lynching is derived), speaks most clearly to our current state of disgrace. But, rather than my paraphrasing, I am posting the full text of his letter for all to read. It is painfully illustrative of what is broken and its genesis.

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Are We There Yet? Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton SNL Video

Are We There Yet? Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton SNL Video

It has been a hellish and interminable 2016 presidential election cycle, best described by the immortal words of Charles Dickens from the opening salvo of his historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities.It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,

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Todd Akin | Legitimate Rape

Todd Akin | Legitimate Rape

A mother or father deserves justice when their child has been raped and they should not have to fight with the courts to have the perpetrator sentenced as prescribed by the law. A single-mother should not be judged as somehow complicit in her child’s sexual abuse simply because she finds herself in the unfortunate position of having to work outside of the home to support her family.

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Taking Back America is About Personal Responsibility

Taking Back America is About Personal Responsibility

No one should have to pay for the crimes of others, or be condemned simply because they share skin tone, profession, or religious affiliation. America isn’t that far removed from a time when Blacks, Native Americans, Jews, Catholics, Mormons and others had no legal recourse for being discriminated against. But we as a country and society have made great strides. However, in the last few days, much to the dismay and horror of the majority of Americans, the disenfranchised have chosen to discard reason and rational discourse to engage in ex-judicial violence.

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The History of American Aid for Jordan

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 18, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 18, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

JORDAN, Amman - The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, one of the Unite States' key ally in the troubled Middle East. It is also one of more than 200 other countries and territories across the globe that consistently receive annual U.S. aid to help face their political and economic hardships. However, despite all this financial support Jordan has received from the second half of the last century up to today, the country has incurred heavy debt of almost $24 billion or around 90 percent of its GDP.  

Based on USAID’s data, this article sheds the light on the extent to which America financed the support Jordan for over the past 16 years, in effect bolstering the reign King Abdulla who ascended the throne in 1999 and continues to rule.

Money received

Jordan has received almost $13 billion during Abdulla's reign, which accounts for 46 percent of the total amount of aid given by America since 1951. When Abdulla inherited the throne of Father King Hussain, as the new ruler he took a more aggressive approach to broadening the country's relationship with the U.S. It appears that the relationship was quid pro quo, giving the appearance that America purchased the country to strengthen its presence in the Middle East. This in effect was how Jordan became a key alley to the U.S, during its invasion of Iraq in 2003, and established the foundation of a joint venture in the war against terrorism in the Middle East.

U.S giving aid to Jordan in 1951, resulting in the cumulative amount of aid given to the country at an astounding $28 billion. The data also shows that Jordan has received approximately $700 million per annum. In 2003, the year of the U.S invasion of Iraq, Jordan received its highest amount in aid which topped out at $1.5 billion.

Another notable fact was that during the intervening years of the civil war in Syria, the U.S. has exponentially increased both its presence in the region and aid to Jordan. Between 2012-2014, the country was given around 4 billion dollars, more than one billion each year in aid or roughly 14% of the total amount of aid the U.S. has given to the country since 1951.

During those three years, Jordan has also tried to absorb more than half a million refugees from neighboring Syria, while actively participating and supporting its allies in the war against ISIS.

In general, the data shows that the amount of aid has tripled over the examined period, increasing from almost $300 million in 1999 to more than $800 million in 2015.


Aid by category

Analyzing the data based on the category of the type of aid received, both economic or military, shows that economic aids was consistetly higher than that allocated to the military.

Aid by sector

Over the past 16 years, the lion share of the aid, around $3 billion or 26%, was channeled into Security System Management and Reform. Second on the list was General Budget Support, around $2 billion (18%) of the aids.Other sectors of the government have also been allocated aid during the examined period totaling five billion dollars. Second, came the category called “Other” which totaled around $3.5 billion. Of this number, the lowest awards were earmarked for education and economic growth and totaled around $300 million each. Despite the billions of dollars in aid to ostensibly improve governance, the country has failed to date to make any significant political reform.

Though initially seen as migrating toward a democracy, the government was actually more akin to a plutocracy. Now, King Abdullah rules as an autocratic monarch, a role which was codified by recent constitutional amendments which increased his powers to appoint and dismiss senior government employees. Most recently these included the president of the judiciary council, the president and the members of the constitutional court. Taken in tandem with his power to both handpick an appoint the prime minister, the chief of the staff and the president of the intelligence department, he has become the rule of law. A king who actually controls both the judiciary and executive branches of government giving him absolute power. This is in addition to his control of the army and security forces.

Transparency International, an organization with "chapters in more than 100 countries and an international secretariat in Berlin, is leading the fight against corruption to turn this vision into reality." A database of Corruption by Countries/Region, which includes a number of data points, including a "Corruption Perception Index” which assesses the amount of corruption perceived or actual which exists in any given countries' public sector. In 2015, on a scale of 168, the Kingdom scored 45, which is counter-intuitive to the fact that so much aid has been awarded to the country with a particular emphasis on political reform. The organization had another revealing indicator which measured the “control of corruption,” which reflects how much public power is exercised for private gain. The index includes both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as "capture" of the state by elites and private interests. Jordan also scored quite low at 0.040 where the highest rank is 2.5 and lowest -2.5. (Source: World Bank)

Thus, the question remains, what has been gained by the magnanimous support of $38 billion given by America? Since it hasn't resulted in economic stability, as the country is poised on the precipice of insolvency, the priority is evidently focused on military efforts to maintain stability in the region. Hopefully in the future, once the eradication of the shared enemy, ISIS, has been accomplished and the war is won, additional aid will be tied to specific goals and milestones. One requirement may be to pay down the debt, as well as a shift toward more equitable and balanced governance, with a return to the separation of important branches of the government. But for now, Jordan like many other countries around the world has entered into a quid-pro-quo relationship with the U.S. It isn't all bad, nor as nefarious as some could make it, but what has been bought and paid for is a location from which to wage war against one of the most dangerous terrorist organization that threatens the West and the Middle East. It also provides direct on the ground access to the region which vastly improves intelligence gathering efforts. This is all good.

However, in these days and times when enemies form partnerships to achieve shared goals, governments need to take note of the potential price which may ultimately be exacted. Allies purchased through economic aid should be cautious and cognizant of the fate of many leaders in the Middle East and around the world who have benefited from Western largess, military arsenal, and technologies. The infusion of capital and assets often remains at the top and is purchased at the price of the ordinary citizens. People who end up suffering under the whims of dictators and authoritarian regimes supported by the U.S. for political expediency. In the Middle East alone this included Ruhollah Khomeini who governed Iran from 1979 - 1989, Hosni Mubarak who governed Egypt from 1981 - 2011, and Saddam Hussein who governed Iraq from 1979 - 2003 when he was executed. Of course there are many other oppressive regimes around the world that are supported by America, most notably in Africa, but the challenges and questions remain the same.

Does the need of the U.S. for political, military, or economic gain far outweigh the potential abuse of human rights? This is a question we all need to ask, and perhaps even pose to our government.

Contributing Journalist: @ImadSulieman
LinkedIn: Imad Alrawashdeh

Obesity in China: A Plague of Affluence

Lu Zhihao, 4, Foshan, Guangdong province March 28, 2011, Photo: REUTERS/Joe Tan

Lu Zhihao, 4, Foshan, Guangdong province March 28, 2011, Photo: REUTERS/Joe Tan

CHINA - There is a big problem - one which has only gotten bigger in recent years. For the first time, researchers have confirmed that China is facing an ever-growing problem with obesity, an epidemic that has typically only plagued Western nations such as the United States. According to reports, China which previously ranked second among countries with rising rates of obesity, finds itself in the unenviable position of surpassing the US in terms of percentage of obese citizens. “A new Gallup survey published on Friday shows that the obesity rate among adults surged in 2015 to a new high of 28 percent, or a 2.5 percentage point increase since 2008. That means the ranks of dangerously overweight Americans increased by 6.1 million adults over that seven-year period.” (Source: The Fiscal Times)

In many countries, especially those with emerging economies, obesity is associated with economic prosperity. For instance, in Mauritania, a practice called ‘gavage,’ the force feeding of girls to make them fat, is still practiced despite the obvious health risks. This practice is a consequence of societal norms of beauty which arose from the association of weight with affluence.  In this North African country where famine and starvation historically resulted in women being vastly underweight, being overweight signified the converse. Thus, obesity became alluring despite the grave health risks associated with it. However, in the affluent nation such as the U.S., obesity is the result of a complex confluence of factors, including stress, lack of exercise, smoking cigarettes, eating processed or genetically modified foods, or other known ‘fat’ culprits such as high fructose corn syrup.

Those less in tune would find the trend of obesity on the rise in China incomprehensible. From a Western perspective, a country with nearly 1.4 billion citizens is certainly unable to adequately support, much less provide enough food to feed these many people. Thus, it is a conundrum how the plague of obesity has beset a nation in which many of the country's oldest residents vividly recall a time in which the opposite was true. It was during the brutal era of the great famines of China. This tragic part of China’s history is rarely discussed, nor do many young and modern citizens recall the horrendous circumstances in which 45 million people died. Following the Communist Party’s take over in 1949, a deadly combination of natural disasters and ill-conceived government policies resulted in farms being forcibly taken or farmers being ordered to produce food well beyond the capacity of their lands. These farmers were not allowed to consume the food they produced, and if they protested against this mistreatment they were maimed, tortured, or killed.

Shockingly, within less than 70 years, China has managed to go from one extreme to another. It has transformed itself from a nation torn apart by a cultural and political revolution, to one which churns out an astronomical number of exports to the tune of “US$2.282 trillion in 2015.” The top 10 products which the U.S. and other nations purchase from China include, “Electronic equipment, Machines, engines, pumps, Furniture, lighting, signs, Knit or crochet clothing, Clothing, Medical, technical equipment, Plastics, Vehicles, Iron or steel products, and Footwear.” (Source: World’s Top ExportsThe affluence which China has experienced as a result of becoming one of the world’s leading manufacturer is reflected in improved economic stability and social ascendancy which many of its citizens now realize. 

With more discretionary income and leisure time, Chinese citizens are now experiencing a trend which was once unimaginable.  Unprecedented increases in the rate of obesity among its citizenry, particularly with the country's youth, and predominantly in its male population. Boys seem to be at highest risk for this endemic predisposition towards obesity. Recent findings have shown that as of 2014, a staggering 17% of boys and 9% of girls under the age of 19 were reported as being obese, up from just 1% of each when the studies were first conducted in 1985. In addition to the issue of obesity, there has also been an increase in corollary non-communicative illnesses.

  • Juvenile Diabetes: According to a 6 April 2016, World Health Organization news release, Unhealthy lifestyles are also putting China’s children at risk of developing diabetes: more than 4 in 5 adolescents 11-17 years do not get enough physical activity, and rates of overweight and obesity in children are increasing rapidly: from less than 3% in 1985 to around 1 in 10 in girls and 1 in 5 boys in 2010.”
  • Adult Diabetes: The estimated prevalence of diabetes among a representative sample of Chinese adults was 11.6% and the prevalence of prediabetes was 50.1%. Projections based on sample weighting suggest this may represent up to 113.9 million Chinese adults with diabetes and 493.4 million with prediabetes. These findings indicate the importance of diabetes as a public health problem in China. (Source: ResearchGate, Prevalence and Control of Diabetes in Chinese Adults)
  • Hypertension: In 2010, the prevalence of hypertension increased to 33.6% (35.3% in men and 32.0% in women) or 335.8 million Chinese adults based on the China Noncommunicable Disease Surveillance 2010, which was conducted in a nationally representative sample of 98 658 Chinese adults aged at least 18. (Source: Journal of Hypertension in China)
  • Heart Disease and Stroke: The European Society of Cardiology presented to the 27th Great Wall International Congress of Cardiology Asia Pacific Heart Congress the fact that “40%, the mortality rate due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in China is amongst the highest in the world¹ and has been rightly described as an epidemic.  Its population faces a catalogue of CVD risk factor statistics that expose high levels of obesity, diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure, and a smoking habit within males that is proving stubborn to address. (Source: European Society of Cardiology)

These many obesity-related factors are causing growing concern among Chinese government officials, who worry that it will put increased burden on China's healthcare system which currently lacks the elasticity to handle non-communicable diseases such as obesity which is largely preventable.  In China, as in the U.S., the drastic changes in weight gain among its citizenry is also linked to a growing popularity for high-sodium and fatty foods (such as fast food), which are both inexpensive and readily available. Additionally, China struggles with the cultural acceptance of cigarette smoking, which is another deadly factor that contributes to a host of long-term illnesses. In the U.S. smoking has been advertised as deleterious to one’s health, and many people, especially those who are health conscious, find the practice anathema.

However, smoking isn’t viewed with the same negative connotations outside of the U.S. In Europe, Africa, and the Middle East smoking is a integral component of social interactions, and the same can be said of China. Smoking among the younger generation is on the increase, and this coupled with decreased levels of physical activity are contributing factors to the rise of obesity.  Their decisions to relocate to major cities to pursue high paying job and educational opportunities are the very things which now disadvantaged them. They have replaced low wages and physical labor, with jobs where they work long hours in cramped office spaces, under stressful conditions, which they relieve by smoking or drinking alcohol, neither of which are little more than palliatives.

Officials in both countries are now racing against the clock to aggressively combat a crisis that is both socially and economically complex. One which will take the combined efforts of the citizens, scientists, food producers, and the health care system to develop a long-term strategy for tackling this problem. Steps have been taken by both nations to raise public awareness of the problem through advertisement, anti-smoking campaigns, instructing doctors to provide BMI information to patients in addition to their weight, as well as promoting programs designed to help people develop better eating and exercise habits. Additionally, the creation of educational programs throughout China, such as those sponsored by the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (Source: JUCCCE), have achieved some success in teaching kids the importance of eating healthy.

Here in the U.S. similar programs have been implemented with the goal of encouraging Americans to make positive healthy lifestyle changes, however, it is as difficult for the government of the U.S. as it is for China to convince people to adjust social norms. For example, as Americans have become more obese, manufacturers make clothes in larger sizes to accommodate increased girths. Many of these clothes are made in China which produces them in accordance with consumer demand. Though this correlation is simplistic, one thing is for certain - China and the U.S. would greatly benefit from moving beyond a relationship governed solely by economic expediency to one which protects the health of the two most important resources of their economic ecosystem - laborers and consumers.

The epidemic of obesity which plagues both nations has far reaching repercussions both economically and societally. The levels of economic prosperity, the ease of modern living, plentiful goods and services, and access to functional and unburdened health systems, are all things which are threatened should each nation fail to stop this scourge. It is imperative that we remember in meeting this daunting challenge that real change is only accomplished through implementing strategies which promise long-term success.

Waging a successful ‘battle of the bulge’ will be a slow and arduous undertaking, one which could best be viewed in terms of dieting.  One can lose a lot of weight quickly and just as easily gain it back and then some, or one can implement a regime that takes longer and requires more discipline, but ultimately leads to a gradual return to optimal health. Thus, it is important for us to remain cognizant of the pitfalls of focusing all of our effort on a single aspect of this epidemic to the exclusion of all others, because to do so would be akin to winning the battle, but losing the war.

Contributing Journalist: @JonEizyk
LinkedIn: Jon Eizyk

Are Women Considered Equal to Men in the Real World? Not Yet

U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

UNITED STATES - For those who are following the United States' election cycle, Donald Trump’s misogyny brings to the forefront of the national stage an often convoluted and hidden issue of anti-women’s rights sentiment. Trump is not unique in this sentiment, he simply doesn’t care enough to hide his negative opinion of a woman’s worth. He constantly assigns women to lower positions, and has asserted that women are incapable of operating at a high-level in any field, and deserve be judged upon their physical appearances versus their abilities.

 Is he alone in thinking this way? Not at all. Despite the fact that women’s role in society has exponentially improved compared to the rigid roles that were afforded to them in the last century, there is still a vast gap in access to higher education. Education is a prerequisite to securing high-paying jobs that would afford women the financial freedom to achieve upward mobility for themselves and their families.

EDUCATION

In fact, data shows young girls are routinely steered away from STEM education curriculum.  In 2012 an article written by Erik B. Robelen for Education Week, statistics indicated that “Despite the gains, experts say some gender divides are still apparent, especially with participation in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” His articles continues by stating that “Concern remains widespread about the relative lack of women pursuing advanced study and careers in STEM fields. Recent federal data show just one-quarter of people working in those fields are women; one in seven engineers is female. Also, women trailed men in earning doctorates in many STEM fields, as of 2009, including computer science, engineering, chemistry, and math.”

"Computing has one of the worst gender representations of any STEM discipline," said Lucinda M. Sanders, the chief executive officer and co-founder of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, based in Boulder, Colo. "When you do find computing in high school, and it is rigorous, girls are very seldom represented in the classroom." (Source: Education Week, Gender Gap Persist in STEM Subjects

Three years later in an article written by Janine Ingram, “IX Reasons STEM Needs Title IX: Lessons from Center Court,” listed ten reasons why girls participation in STEM based curriculum is important, of those, the two below are most applicable to this article:

  1. Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the US Economy, they fill less than 25% of STEM jobs. So why is that a big deal? Read #2 …
  2. Women with STEM jobs earn 33% more than women with non-STEM jobs (.92 cents for every male dollar compared to .77 cents for every male dollar in non-STEM jobs).

Now I’m not thrilled to know I am being out-earned by 8 cents simply by virtue of a missing ‘y’ chromosome — but it beats 23 cents." (Source: Huffington Post)

Thus, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics courses, are necessary to succeed in the increasingly, sophisticated technological world. Even though this is common knowledge, girls and women continue to be unfairly steered into educational opportunities that make them less competitive and less likely to secure scholarships to top-tier universities. Without scholarships post-secondary education is increasingly outside the grasps of the average American for whom the specter of huge student loans represents a deterrent because of the reality of being unable to pay these loans back given the current job market and the opportunities afforded women who graduate with less competitive degrees.

JOB MARKET

According to Inter-Parliamentary Union research data, There are only three countries in the world where female representation equals or is more than males. These are Cuba (49 percent), Bolivia (53 percent) and Rwanda (64 percent). Though these figures are high, the average representation of women in parliaments globally tops out at about 22 percent. It is worth noting that there are countries with no female representation in their parliament. But, even more unjust is the fact that there are still countries where women cannot even vote.

One would think with a former female Senator, Secretary of State, and First Lady, Hillary Clinton running for president, that America is doing better when it comes to women in elected positions, especially in the U.S. House and Senate. With 88female members in U.S. House of Representatives, and 20 in the U.S. Senate, the United States takes the 95th place on the IPU’s women in Parliaments list, since female representatives only comprise about 20 percent of the Congress which is slightly below world average.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, of the data collected from individuals over 16-years-old, 57 percent of women participate in the workforce in the United States, yet women comprise only 46 percent of the total work force. Additionally, though the member countries of the European Union are considered as having one of the most developed and progressive economies only 62 percent of the women were employed in 2012, by comparison of 74 points for men.  According to research results from National Bureau of Economic Research, in 1990 the United States was identified as number one in terms of women in the workforce. This figure has declined to17th among the world’s 22 richest countries.

The predominance of men in both the public and private sector in senior management and executive positions continues to be the norm. Though there are many powerful women who are heads of major organizations like Christine Lagarde, the CEO of the International Monetary Fund, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany,  Carly Fiorina, former 2016 U.S. presidential candidate, and Oprah Winfrey, American billionaire media mogul, to name a few. However, by and large the average woman lacks access to the finances, education, social contacts to push through the discrimination that persists and hinders their advancements despite many gains in women’s rights.

WOMEN’S HEALTH AND FAMILY LIFE

According to Laura Bassett in her article titled “The U.N. Sent 3 Foreign Women to the U.S. To Assess Gender Equality. They Were Horrified.”  A delegation of human rights experts from Poland, the United Kingdom and Costa Rica spent 10 days touring the United States so they can prepare a report on the nation’s overall treatment of women. The three women, who lead a United Nations working group on discrimination against women, visited Alabama, Texas and Oregon to evaluate a wide range of U.S. policies and attitudes, as well as school, health and prison systems.

The delegates were appalled by the lack of gender equality in America. They found the U.S. to be lagging far behind international human rights standards in a number of areas, including its 23 percent gender pay gap, maternity leave, affordable child care and the treatment of female migrants in detention centers.” (Source: Huffington Post)

Their  3 women delegation’s overall negative assessment of the treatment of women was punctuated by a disturbing experience at an abortion clinic. They recounted how women who had chosen to exercise their reproductive rights afforded them by Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision were verbally berated, spit upon, and physically blocked as they tried to enter abortion clinics. The United States Supreme Court ruled 7–2, on January 22, 1973 that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th amendment extended to a woman's decision to have an abortion. The right must be balanced against the state's two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting women's health and protecting the potentiality of human life.

But, women continue to be systematically denied the right to exercise control of their reproductive rights. Now, in addition to making one of the most difficult decision of a woman’s life, the decision to terminate a pregnancy, they are increasingly at risk of losing access to securing abortions in safe, clean, medical facilities with trained practitioners. According to NARAL Pro-Choice research, in 2015, 22 states enacted 41 anti-choice measures.

“Arkansas enacted the most anti-choice legislation in 2015, with seven measures. Indiana and Texas followed, enacting four anti-choice measures each, and Oklahoma enacted three anti-choice measures. Since 1995, states have enacted 876 anti-choice measures.”

On the contrary, 19 states and District of Columbia passed 31 pro-choice measures in the same year. Currently, across the United States, religious conservatives have successfully waged battle against Planned Parenthood, one of the only organizations which provides free wellness care to women - including annual breast exams, pap smears, contraceptive, and STD treatment and awareness.

Planned Parenthood, dating back to 1923, has been one of the unique organizations in the United States, providing contraception and other health services to women and men, funding research on birth control and educating specialists; and educating the public about the results of advancing access to family planning. As the presidential election cycle took off, the organization has become one of the main targets of the Republican presidential candidates after the Center for Medical Progress released its video footage of its undercover investigation on selling the human body parts by Planned Parenthood officials.

In many cases, although these services are not as widespread in many countries other than United States, there are other organizations such as International Planned Parenthood Federation continue to educate and help people in need.  

A woman’s right to control her reproductive rights is not the only area in which women are routinely discriminated against because of their sex. According to a report from International Labor Organization, United States is one of only the three countries in the world that does not guarantee paid maternity leave for the working women. The other two are Papua New Guinea and Oman. Most of the developed countries mandate by law that employers grant maternity and paternity leave without risk of losing their jobs. In addition, employers must provide latitude to employees in cases where a family emergency arises by guaranteeing job security for employees who may require time off for illness. Some companies must also provide stipends to help employees more easily support preschool education for their children.

With regard to recognizing the importance of family, and that the quality of work and happiness quotient for employees is very much lacking in the United States. It is so rare that in 2015 Forbes featured the Top 10 Companies Doing the Most to Make Their Employees Happier. Some of the benefits afforded to these companies employees are common in the E.U., but so foreign in the U.S. workforce as to be noteworthy. A research conducted by White House showed in today’s America, in 60 percent of the families, both father and mother are working. In 1965 this was 40 percent. Despite this increase in 50 years, The United States failed to develop policies to enhance family unity as well as providing healthcare, the smallest unit of the society. On the other side, many of the European countries have started the basics of health insurance as early as 19th century. A World Health Organization report on transition towards universal health care coverage shows Austria resolving the issue as early as 1967, Belgium by 1969, Germany by 1988.

Until two years ago, national health insurance wasn’t easily available or affordable, and not guaranteed to every individual in the United States while in the E.U., U.K., and Canada, a national healthcare system provides mandatory care to the citizens. Although Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has provided health insurance to many people who has never had insurance before, a recent Gallup Poll showed that 12 percent of the American people were not covered as of the end of the first quarter of 2015. It is an unfortunate fact that despite the spirit of the law, employers found ways to exploit the loopholes that exists in the law to justify not insuring their employees. Though the law has provided insurance for many people who were previous unable to secure coverage, it continues to be criticized for weakening the workforce indirectly. Many of the reasons pointed out that it is causing undue economic burden on small businesses, causing employers to decrease their workforce or reduce the hours their employees work so that they are considered part-time and therefore ineligible for company provided insurance coverage. Secondarily, because it mandates that all Americans have the right to have adequate health insurance coverage which was denied to many prior to the legislation, it has unfortunately ended up penalizing individuals for a failure to maintain health insurance by increasing their tax burden and forcing them to pay monthly premiums.

One of the main problems with not having insurance, especially for women is the consequences. National Center for Biotechnology Information has studied employer's’ benefits from workers’ health insurance. According to several studies, poor health can be related to increased absenteeism. Accordingly, poor health reduces earnings significantly, when compared to workers with access to health insurance, hence good health. In many cases, women have the double responsibility for household work and outside work. According to another study on health and productivity, poor health means, in many cases, loss of income for the female body of the family as well as additional expenditure to fulfill the commitments of the women. As a result, in order to keep an equal status to men, women end up sacrificing a part of herself most cases her femininity in order to eliminate additional responsibilities that comes with being a woman, and not being compromised for it.

Inequality against women is not limited to health issues. Gender inequality, like in the rest of the world, exists in the United States in many levels. Women in the U.S. get paid significantly less than their male counterparts for the same work they do. At a roundtable event on April 12, Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton questioned the lower pay U.S. women soccer team members are receiving when compared to male soccer team, even after winning the World Cup and Olympics.

“We cheered when they won the world cup, and we cheered when they won the Olympic gold medal. And, we noticed that our men’s team hasn’t yet done that. Yet somehow, the men are making hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the women,” she said.

There is no question why U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a speech during the dedication of the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in honor of Equal Pay Day. Though not directly tied to pay, the event highlighted the gains realized after the passing of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage, or the right for women to vote. The monument paid homage to activist and suffragist Alva Belmont, who was a major benefactor of the National Woman's Party, and Alice Paul, who founded the Party and was the chief strategist and leader in the Party’s ongoing fight for women’s political, social, and economic equality. (Source: The White House)

President Obama stated that “I am not here just to say we should close the wage gap. I am here to say, we will close the wage gap. If you don’t believe me, If you don’t believe that we are going to close that gap, you need to come visit this house,” he said in alluding the all of the women who work in his administration, as well as a nod to the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

According to a census survey the gap between the wages paid to women and men has not improved for 11 years as of 2013. According to this data, women gets paid about 25 percent less than their male counterparts working full time, year round jobs. This fact was so apparent that since taking office, President Obama has made equal pay a top priority and “has taken a number of steps to fight for pay equity. In addition to signing his first piece of legislation as President, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, President Obama has created the National Equal Pay Task Force, called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, issued an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss or inquire about their compensation, and worked with the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to better target enforcement of equal pay laws though enhanced employer reporting of pay data.” (Source: The White House)

In the light of the data, it is safe to say gender equality is a complex issue of social-economic dynamics, stereotypes, and overt efforts to impede women’s equality. Without addressing all of the problems, one cannot hope to achieve comprehensive improvements. Though this is a gargantuan task, and one that cannot be solved by one stroke of the pen, it is something which needs to be front and center in the national dialogue of equal rights.

A large part of the solution requires improvements in the healthcare system and the Affordable Care Act, legislation to provide more transparency in the workplace with regard to salaries, and a realignment of family values to reward versus penalize women who must balance both the home and work life. It is going to take a collaborative effort through public/private partnerships, validating and supporting organizations fighting for women’s rights and equality, and above all a sincere effort on the part of men and women to understand each other. Hopefully, through these efforts, and many more, we will enable women of 21st century to achieve an equal living standard afforded to men of 21st century. And if for no other reason, though it may seem quixotic, Donald Trump’s misogyny has sparked a national debate which has long been overlooked and vastly under-reported.

Contributing Journalist: @ElvanKatmer
LinkedIn: Elvan Katmer

The Complicated Dynamic of Arab’s Love-Hate Relationship with the Rest of the World

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry & Arab League Secretary-General Dr. Nabil Elaraby,, Photo by U.S. Department of State

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry & Arab League Secretary-General Dr. Nabil Elaraby,, Photo by U.S. Department of State

MIDDLE EAST - The relationship the Middle East maintains with other global nations is complicated. Whether political relations or social ties, trying to understand the depth of Arab’s love-hate relationship with other countries sometimes seems like an impenetrable task.

Without taking into consideration foreign nations, the countries that make up the Middle East are themselves strategically aligned despite differences in terms of social issues, beliefs, regulations, and political dominance. The conflicts and alliances within the boundaries of Arab nations impacts the global landscape in innumerable ways and has great significance.

The Middle East maintains a very definite and elaborate relationship with the rest of the world. Some of these relationships are cordial, others born of necessity and political expediency such as Gulf security, while others are mutually beneficial and actively nurtured. It is very interesting to study and understand the relationship between Arab nations and rest of the world.

Here is a snapshot of the relationships shared with different countries:

With The USA

This relationship depicts an underlying distrust of the fundamentalist values that govern most Arab nations, juxtaposed with an insatiable dependence upon Arab’s vast oil reserves. This high energy consumption is a primary reason that the United States walks a delicate balance in maintaining cordial relationships with Middle East countries despite periodic conflicting priorities. For instance, after 9/11 there were numerous allegations by the U.S. government that some of terrorists originated from Saudi Arabia. This caused a potential rift in relations, but unlike Iran, the dependence on the oil and Saudi Arabia as a formidable ally in the region, the U.S. negotiated terms under which it could continue to receive the much needed petroleum.

"The United States imported approximately 9 million barrels per day (MMbbl/d) of petroleum in 2014 from about 80 countries. Petroleum includes crude oil, natural gas plant liquids, liquefied refinery gases, refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel, and biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel. In 2014, about 80% of gross petroleum imports were crude oil, and about 44% of the crude oil that was processed in U.S. refineries was imported.

The top five source countries of U.S. petroleum imports in 2014 were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Iraq.  The country rankings vary based on gross petroleum imports or net petroleum imports (gross imports minus exports)." (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

The intricate relationship between the U.S. and Saudia Arabia started with ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Ibn Saud’, the founding monarch of Saudi Arabia. The event was initiated by most respected American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt in the year 1951. The outcome of these negotiations forever connected Arab’s oil with American national security.

In the current climate in the Middle East as well as the continuing instability in the entire region, the increasingly interdependent relationship between the kingdom and the U.S. is largely driven by the supply of cheap oil in in exchange for American protection. The ‘hate’ factor cannot be denied as well; as xenophia against all Arabs is rampant in the U.S. in some instances with cause, but in many it is the result of a lack of education and exposure.

With China

The relationship between the Peoples' Republic of China and Saudi Arabia goes beyond the love for ‘oil’ or rather the greed for it. The mutually beneficial relationship is predicated by an exchange of goodsfor petrol. This success of this relationship can be seen in the ubiquity of Chinese goods being sold in throughout the Middle East. Like most countries that are voracious consumers of the low price goods manufactured in China, Saudi Arabia procures many of these items through bilateral agreements in which China gets oil in exchange. In addition, there are a number of infrastructure projects being undertaken by the two countries which include:

  • Saudi Arabia has become increasingly important as an investment location for the Chinese (with the Saudi reciprocating the interest by increasing their presence in China as part of King Abdullah’s “Look East” strategy).
  • Chinese firms have begun to invest in infrastructure and industry in Saudi Arabia, including in an aluminum smelter in the southern province of Jizan, at a cost of US$3 billion.
  • Direct flights from China
    • Beijing-Jeddah (4 flights weekly)
    • Guangzhou-Jeddah (1 flight weekly)
    • Guangzhou-Riyadh (3 flights weekly) (Source: China Briefing)

The Middle East clearly understands that China’s global rise is a force to be reckoned with and that a strong relationship between the two will be mutually beneficial. The price for this relationship is built upon economic and infrastructure interests versus the quid pro quo relationship that exists between the Saudi Arabia and the U.S. which trades oil in exchange for Gulf security.

With India & Other Asian Countries

India has become a major business partner with Saudia Arabia. Like other nations the relationship between the two countries is primarily a "buyer-seller" relationship with oil being the primary commodity. The recent visit of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to New Delhi boosted strategic ties and the two countries agreed to explore ways and means to transform their buyer-seller relationship. According to Saudi Arabia is India's fourth largest trading partner at $43.78 billion in fiscal 2012-13. In the April-November period of the current fiscal, the two-way trade was $32.7 billion. Imports of crude by India form a major part of this trade. Almost one-fifth of India's oil imports come from Saudi Arabia. (Source: Times of India)

Further, India provides companies stationed in Arab nations like the UAE and Qatar with an efficient and cost effective laborer force and the Gulf employment market has benefited immensely from this exchange.

In summary, each of these relationships was initially established on a foundation of oil trade, but have since diversified their partnerships to the mutual benefit of each nation. Call it the greed for oil or the Middle East’s initiative to achieve economic diversification, the ‘love-hate’ relationship that exists between it and other nations will continue to balance on a delicate fulcrum. These relationships, though fraught with dangers, will ultimately result in greater interdependence, increased stability in the region,  and the development of alternate sources of revenue.

Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

Civil Rights in America, a New but Old Debate. Meet My Grandfather, Julius W. Robertson, Esq.

supreme-court-of-the-united-states-photo-by-brandon-kopp.jpg

WASHINGTON, DC - Among Attorney Julius W. Robertson many talents as an author, civil rights activist and lawyer, he was also the lead attorney on the case of Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, and he is my maternal grandfather.

I believe that his passion for fairness, equal treatment for all individuals regardless of color, religion, or sex instilled and inspired me to advocate for the rights of people across the globe whose plight is often overshadowed by the latest trends, capricious and specious news, or banal entertainment.

Julius Robertson graduated at the top of his class from Howard University in 1948 with combined degrees (B.A. and LL.B.); and today would have received the order of the coif for his academic standing.

Upon graduation, Attorney Robertson established the law firm of Robertson & Roundtree in 1950 as a firm with junior partners, of which Attorney Dovey J. Roundtree was the first. Attorney Roundtree has acknowledged that Attorney Robertson was her mentor as well as her law partner. He was the “majority” partner of Robertson & Roundtree, receiving 51% of the firm’s income to Attorney Roundtree’s 49%. Today, Attorney Robertson would be referred to as “senior and managing partner.”

According to written reports and my mother's anecdotal stories, my grandfather was a brilliant litigator, distinguished civil rights activist and author, much sought after speaker, and well-respected member of the legal community in good standing. Attorney Robertson was admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, U.S. Court of Claims, and the United States Supreme Court.

Attorney Robertson was a member in good standing of the American Bar Association—one of its first ‘official’ Black members, the National Bar Association and the District of Columbia Bar Association—all until his untimely death in 1961.

Attorney Robertson was recognized as a gifted intellectual with a broad range of knowledge of national and international geopolitics. He spoke, read, and wrote fluent German and was invited in the 1950’s to sit on the World Court of Israel after the close of the Nuremberg Trials. After graduation from law school, Attorney Robertson received a fellowship to Harvard University Law School but was unable to accept the offer.

Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, 64 MCC 769 (1955) is a landmark civil rights case in the United States in which the segregationist Interstate Commerce Commission, in response to a complaint filed in 1953 by a Women's Army Corps (WAC) private named Sarah Louise Keys, broke with its past racist practice and banned the segregation of black passengers in buses traveling across state lines.

The November 1955 ruling, publicly announced six days before Rosa Parks' historic defiance of state Jim Crow laws on Montgomery buses, applied the United States Supreme Court's logic in Brown v. Board of Education (347 US 483 (1954)) for the the first time to the field of interstate transportation, and closed the legal loophole that private bus companies had long exploited to impose their own Jim Crow regulations on black interstate travelers.

Keys v. Carolina Coach was the only explicit rejection ever made by either a court or a federal administrative body of the Plessy v. Ferguson (163 US 537 (1896)) 'separate but equal' doctrine in the field of bus travel across state lines, and the ruling made legal history both at the time of its issuance and again in 1961, when Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy invoked it in his successful battle to end Jim Crow travel during the Freedom Riders' campaign.

Argued by pioneering civil rights lawyer Julius Winfield Robertson [founder of law firm, Robertson & Roundtree] and his partner, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, on the eve of the explosion of civil rights protest across America, Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, along with its companion train desegregation case, NAACP v. St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company, 298 ICC 335 (1955), represents a crucial milestone in the legal battle for racial justice.

CASE BACKGROUND: MIDNIGHT IN THE JIM CROW SOUTH

The Keys case originated in an incident that occurred at a bus station in the tiny North Carolina town of Roanoke Rapids shortly after midnight on August 1, 1952, when African-American WAC private Sarah Keys was forced by a local bus driver to yield her seat in the front of the vehicle to a white Marine as she traveled homeward on furlough. At the time of the incident, Jim Crow laws entirely governed Southern bus travel, despite a 1946 Supreme Court ruling meant to put an end to the practice.

That decision, Morgan v. Virginia (328 US 373 (1946)), had declared state Jim Crow laws inoperative on interstate buses on the basis that the imposition of widely varying statutes on black passengers moving across state lines generated multiple seat changes and thus created the kind of disorder and inconsistency forbidden by the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Southern carriers managed to dodge the Morgan decision, however, by passing segregation rules of their own, and those rules remained outside the purview of state and federal courts because they pertained to private businesses. In addition, the federal agency charged with regulating the carriers, the Interstate Commerce Commission, had historically interpreted the Interstate Commerce Act's discrimination ban as permitting separate accommodations for the races so long as they were equal.

The ICC had ruled so consistently against black complainants since its establishment in 1887 that it had become known as "the Supreme Court of the Confederacy." The ICC's 'separate but equal' policy, upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in a 1950 railway dining car segregation case known as Henderson v. United States (399 US 816 (1950)), thus remained the norm in public transportation.

So hardened was the practice of Jim Crow in Southern travel when Sarah Keys made her journey in 1952 that even black travelers who had started their journeys in the North on integrated trains or buses were, with few exceptions, forced to comply with Jim Crow carrier regulations once they crossed into the South.

When Sarah Keys departed her WAC post in Fort Dix, New Jersey on the evening of July 31, 1952 for her home in the town of Washington, North Carolina, she boarded an integrated bus and transferred without incident in Washington, D.C. to a Carolina Trailways vehicle, taking the fifth seat from the front in the white section.

When the bus pulled into the town of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, however, a new driver took the wheel and demanded that she comply with the carrier's Jim Crow regulation by moving to the so-called "colored section" in the back of the bus so that a white Marine could occupy her seat. When Keys refused to move, the driver emptied the bus, directed the other passengers to another vehicle, and barred Keys from boarding it.

An altercation ensued and Keys was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, jailed incommunicado overnight, then convicted of the disorderly conduct charge and fined $25. When that charge was sustained on appeal by a North Carolina lower court, Keys and her father brought the matter to the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) office in Washington, D.C., headed by Howard University Law School professor Frank D. Reeves.

With Thurgood Marshall, Reeves had run the Legal Defense Fund's New York City office in the early 1940s, and he was working with Marshall and his team in the early 1950s on the legal drive to end school segregation that would culminate in the groundbreaking 1954 Brown v. Board decision. Reeves referred the Sarah Keys matter to his former law student, Julius W. Robertson and his partner, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, a World War II WAC who had herself been subjected to Jim Crow during her military travels.

A THREE-YEAR BATTLE FOR JUSTICE

The match of client and attorneys proved fortuitous. Though Robertson and Roundtree were but a year at the bar in the summer of 1952 when they undertook to represent Sarah Keys, they had been schooled at Howard Law by such renowned civil rights lawyers as Thurgood Marshall, James Madison Nabrit, Jr., and George E.C. Hayes and were deeply involved in the movement to dismantle segregation in the courts.

It seems at this time, my grandfather also enjoyed some press for his part in identifying and taking down a con-artist impersonator.

Source: Annette Mae McGee née Robertson. She is my mother and one of Attorney Robertson's surviving daughters.

Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias
LinkedIn: Ayanna Nahmias