Monday Reads

Good Morning!!

The Republican War on Birth Control and women’s rights in general is turning off a lot of moderate and independent Republican women.  Given the number efforts to roll back women’s reproductive health as well as the attack on public health and education, will the Gender Gap be huge this fall?

In Iowa, one of the crucial battlegrounds in the coming presidential election, and in other states, dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women — one of the most important electoral swing groups — are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion in an election that, until recently, had been mostly dominated by the economy.

And in what appears to be an abrupt shift, some Republican-leaning women like Ms. Russell said they might switch sides and vote for Mr. Obama — if they turn out to vote at all.

The sudden return of the “culture wars” over the rights of women and their place in society has resulted, the women said, in a distinct change in mood in the past several weeks. That shift adds yet another element of uncertainty to a race that has been defined by unpredictability, at least for Republicans.

To what extent women feel alienated remains unclear: most interviews for this article were conducted from a randomly generated list of voters who had been surveyed in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, and their responses are anecdotal, not conclusive. But the latest comments from the Republican candidates and in the right-wing media, aimed at energizing the party’s conservative base, have been enraging to some women.

We’re beginning to see women take to the streets again.  Let’s hope a lot more take to the voting booth in the fall and take out some of these horrible legislators.
All this has not been lost on the Obama campaign.

The campaign website gives details on the benefits of the health-care law, a frequent target of Republican candidates who say it should be repealed, including requirements that new health insurance plans cover women’s preventative services, mammograms and birth control pills.

The women’s vote is important to both parties because, since 1986, women have voted more than men, at least in congressional races, according to Census Bureau figures. In the 2010 midterm elections, 42.7 percent of eligible women voters cast ballots while 40.9 percent of the men did so,

The special focus on women in the days ahead, first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by an Obama campaign official, follows confusion created by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney over his stance on whether employers can opt out of health-care coverage involving contraception.

The NZ Herald has named its lists of best countries to be a woman.  The overall best place to be a woman was given to Iceleand, but there were some other categories too. There are a total of 20 categories.  Here are the top five.

1) Best place to be a woman: Iceland

Iceland has the greatest equality between men and women, taking into account politics, education, employment and health indicators. The UK comes in at 16th place, down one since 2010.The worst is Yemen, and the most dangerous is Afghanistan.

2) Best place to be a politician: Rwanda

Rwanda is the only nation in which females make up the majority of parliamentarians. Women hold 45 out of 80 seats. Britain comes in at 45th place, behind Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. The worst countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Oman and Belize, have no women in Parliament.

3) Best place to be a mother: Norway

Norway is the world’s safest place to be a mother, with low risks of maternal mortality – one in 7600 – and skilled help with childcare. The worst is Afghanistan, where women face dangers during childbirth and from bombs and bullets.

4) Best place to read and write: Lesotho

Literacy rates among women in Lesotho exceed those of men, with 95 per cent of women able to read and write, compared with 83 per cent of men. The UK is ranked 21st. The worst country is Ethiopia, where only 18 per cent of women can read and write, compared with 42 per cent of men.

5) Best place to be head of state: Sri Lanka

Women have run Sri Lanka for 23 years. Dozens of countries, including Spain and Sweden, have never had a female head of government.

We also know that the U.S. does not rank high on any of these lists.

We’ve been talking the Handmaiden’s Tale scenario for some time here.  Alternet asks “Is America on the Verge of Theocracy?” then lists four fundamentalist ideologies that threaten our democracy.

As many notable and courageous critics ranging from Sheldon Wolin to Chris Hedges have pointed out, American politics is being shaped by extremists who have shredded civil liberties, lied to the public to legitimate sending young American troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, alienated most of the international community with a blatant exercise of arrogant power and investment in a permanent warfare state, tarnished the highest offices of government with unsavory corporate alliances, used political power to unabashedly pursue legislative policies that favor the rich and punish the poor and perhaps irreparably damaged any remaining public spheres not governed by the logic of the market. They have waged a covert war against poor young people and people of color who are being either warehoused in substandard schools or incarcerated at alarming rates. Academic freedom is increasingly under attack by extremists such as Rick Santorum; homophobia and racism have become the poster ideologies of the Republican Party; war and warriors have become the most endearing models of national greatness; and a full-fledged assault on women’s reproductive rights is being championed by the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls and a not insignificant number of Republican governors. While people of color, the poor, youth, the middle class, the elderly, LGBT communities and women are being attacked, the Republican Party is supporting a campaign to collapse the boundaries between the church and state, and even liberal critics such as Frank Rich believe that the United States is on the verge of becoming a fundamentalist theocracy.

The first idea elucidated has to do with a radical notion of market fundamentalism that refuses to recognize the nuances in a variety of markets for goods and services and belies the need for public goods and services.  The second is religious fundamentalism which is driving the war against women and science.  The third is connected to education which supports rote memorization of facts and hates intellectualism and critical thinking skills.  The fourth and final fundamentalism deals with the military. It’s a long read but very good.

Just to end up with some lighter things,  here are some science links from Discover Magazine that you may want to check out.  There a quite a few more, so go check it out.

“25 Things You Should Know About Word Choice.” – Essential advice for all writers.

The world’s dumbest uses for QR codes

The house sparrow “is native to humanity rather than to some particular region.” Lovely piece by Rob Dunn.

We can rebuild you. We have the technology. But we can’t give you hair, apparently. BBC on our bionic future

18/19th-century bodysnatchers “fought each other for ‘a monopoly over the cadaver trade’ – more goodness from the Chirurgeon’s Apprentice.

We’re underestimating the risk of human extinction – a cogent argument for why we’re all doomed

“There’s no way out of this one.” Entire nation of Kiribati to move to Fiji because of rising sea level

Decision-Making Under Stress: The Brain Remembers Rewards, Forgets Punishments by Maia Szalavitz

An interviewer asked Neil Tyson about the most astounding fact he knows. The result is absolutely wonderful.

So, there’s some of the good, the bad, and the ugly reads for today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?