Senate GOP starts fast-track on bill to block Planned Parenthood funding – By Jordain Carney September 21, 2015, 08:17 pm

Senate Republicans on Monday night started the Senate’s fast-track process on legislation that would block federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) began the process, known as Rule 14, that will allow the legislation to skip over the Senate’s committee process and go straight to the Senate floor where it can be brought up for a vote. The Senate will likely complete the process on Tuesday.

The legislation, which passed the House last week by a 241-187 vote, would place a one-year freeze on federal funding for the organization giving lawmakers more time to investigate claims of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood made in a string of controversial videos.

Senate Republicans also started the fast-track process on a House-passed bill that would tighten restrictions on abortion doctors who violate infant protections.

The proposals come as Republican leadership is under pressure to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood ahead of an end-of-the-month deadline to pass a government spending bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged to not let the government shutdown, and called his party’s push to defund Planned Parenthood as part of a spending bill an “exercise in futility.”

But Congress’ path to keeping the government open remains unclear with only a handful of days left before the deadline.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, told reporters that the Senate could take the lead on a funding bill, but added that “I don’t think it’s been finally decided.”

The Land of No Men: Inside Kenya’s Women-Only Village – Vice News Published on Sep 9, 2015

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Where the foothills of Mount Kenya merge into the desert, the people of Samburu have maintained a strict patriarchy for over 500 years in northern Kenya. That is, until 25 years ago, when Rebecca Lolosoli founded Umoja village as a safe haven for the region’s women. Umoja, which means “unity” in Swahili, is quite literally a no man’s land, and the matriarchal refuge is now home to the Samburu women who no longer want to suffer abuses, like genital mutilation and forced marriages, at the hands of men.

Throughout the years, it has also empowered other women in the districts surrounding Samburu to start their own men-excluding villages. Broadly visited Umoja and the villages it inspired to meet with the women who were fed up with living in a violent patriarchy.

Serena Williams beats sister Venus to make US Open 2015 semi-finals – Kevin Mitchell at Flushing Meadows Tuesday 8 September 2015 22.15 EDT

Serena and Venus Williams

The woman policing the gangway that leads down to the media seats on Arthur Ashe glanced at a stadium TV screen, and whispered, “I like Venus.”

It wasn’t “like” as in the American sporting argot, “think she will win”, more an expression of admiration bordering on sympathy for the older Williams sister (justified, as it happens), who was expected to be marmalised by Serena, the champion who had out-titled her over their careers 69-46, who had won 15 of their 26 matches and who was reaching for a quarter-final win that would propel her to within two victories of history.

And so the predicted result transpired, unexpectedly, in three sets.

Obstructing Serena’s route to the final and coronation as the first woman to sweep all four majors in a calendar year since Steffi Graf in 1988 is a player she has beaten all four times they have met, Roberta Vinci. The Italian has won just 22 games in those matches.

That has slaughter written all over it.

So did this quarter-final, which lasted an hour and 38 minutes and which Serena won 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.

It is not disrespecting Venus – who has won more easily in this tournament than has Serena – to point out the disparity in spoils and consistent dominance stretching back several years. She is in pretty respectable company trailing her sister in every statistic known to nerds. In slams, Serena now leads 9-5, including four on the spin in recent majors.

But, if you dismiss as absurd the notion that collusion between two sisters whose bond is unbreakable, there remains the dilemma of culling half-heartedness from conviction. There was little evidence of the former, much of the latter, by both players. Yet it was a strangely antiseptic affair.

No description could match watching the contest unfold live, but the numbers tell the story. There were a remarkable 126 rallies of four shots or fewer and only three that lasted longer than nine strokes. The paradox was they were so good they made it look bad, not a fight but an exchange of brilliant winners, 35 by Serena, 24 from Venus, with a combined unforced error count of only 37. As executions go, it was quick and clean.

Never the less, in the first set, fans looked this way and that around the stadium, fiddling with their phones, peeping up at the jumbo screens to see if they’d made it on to the roaming shoot of the stands, and wondering when it might be cool to maybe slip away. Not many did.

At times this was like kissing your sister – except they are sisters. The longest rally of the match arrived at 30-love to Venus in the third game of the second set after 44 minutes of tennis they could market as a lullaby video. It lasted all of 13 shots, and it wasn’t all that. Venus won it, by the way, holding to love, but everyone shifting in their seats knew it was not going to change the course of the match, and, of course, it didn’t.

Even when Serena dropped serve (breaking her run of 18 holds in a row) with a double fault (a second serve into the net at 68mph) to fall 1-3 behind, it was hard to detect in the champion a shred of anxiety.

A third double fault handed Venus the gift of serving out the second set at 5-1 after a little under an hour. She had three set points, and Serena was plunged into her 11th three-setter of the season when she banged the third into the net.

And still inevitability hung heavy in the air.

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I had to be high to work at Hooters: Boobs, binge eating and men’s wandering hands – SARAH KASBEER MONDAY, SEP 7, 2015 04:30 PM PDT

My curves brought me nothing but trouble, so I decided to cash in. How bad could Hooters be? Turns out: Really bad

I had to be high to work at Hooters: Boobs, binge eating and men's wandering hands

(Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott/Photo treatment by Salon)

In high school, I prided myself on the ability to roll a joint while also driving stick. The cops caught on my senior year, slapping me with a possession charge and a $1,200 fine, a small fortune to a teenager who could barely scrounge $2.75 from the family change drawer for a pack of Camel Lights.

“You’re paying me back for this,” my mother told me. “Every last cent.”

That was going to be a problem: I’d blown off my previous occupation as a lifeguard in favor of a pot habit, which was basically free when you dated the dealers. Every job application I filled out seemed to present the same problem: “Have you ever been convicted of a crime other than a traffic violation?” I didn’t have the balls to sell drugs, nor the dancing skills to swing around a pole without landing in someone’s lap (at least not in an good way). I knew of one place—and one place only—that would look straight past my pot addiction and direct its gaze elsewhere: Hooters.


The story of how I got a job at Hooters actually starts when I was about 10 years old. I wore a training bra in fifth grade, and like all training bras, mine got snapped. Before then, I was a miniature athlete. I played soccer, collected enough first-place swimming ribbons to fill a cork board, and even perfected a back flip off the high dive. But in adolescence, I noticed my rectangular-shaped body morphing into more of an oval. Participating in sports that required a Speedo induced more anxiety than endorphins.

The more I began to dislike my body, the more I punished myself with the guilt of overeating. In the mid-’90s, packaged food was the name of my game: Pop Tarts, Chips Ahoy, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. By 15, I was 20 pounds overweight and would do anything to gain acceptance. That included sneaking out to meet boys and drink beer. My parents caught me one night when my radio alarm clock blasted Bon Jovi at 2 a.m., revealing the bloated pillow dummy I’d carefully staged before slipping out the side window. As punishment, they forced me to get a job at McDonald’s in order to impart some moral lesson that I never quite learned. Instead I felt humiliated, swishing around in polyester pants and a maroon visor as I doled out free fries to upperclassmen.


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For The First Time, Women Will Graduate From Army’s Rigorous Ranger School – LUCY PERKINS AUGUST 17, 2015 8:32 PM ET

A woman participates in the final phase of U.S. Army Ranger training, taking place in the hot humid swamps of the Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., earlier this year. For the first time, two women completed the training, the military announced Monday.

A woman participates in the final phase of U.S. Army Ranger training, taking place in the hot humid swamps of the Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., earlier this year. For the first time, two women completed the training, the military announced Monday. Scott Brooks/MAI/Landov

Two women have completed the Army’s tough Ranger School, officials say. Both are in their 20s and are lieutenants.

NPR’s Tom Bowman reports that the women, whose names haven’t been released, attended West Point and will graduate with the rest of their Ranger class on Friday.

The Pentagon has not decided whether they will be approved for ground combat.

“They’ll now wear the Ranger tab on their uniforms,” Tom says. “A coveted award among infantry soldiers.”

Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh congratulated all the new Rangers in a press release:

“Each Ranger School graduate has shown the physical and mental toughness to successfully lead organizations at any level. This course has proven that every Soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential. We owe Soldiers the opportunity to serve successfully in any position where they are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best Soldiers to meet our Nation’s needs.”

The Ranger course began in 1950. The Army says that around 40 percent of male soldiers in Ranger School graduate.

The Army announced its decision allowing women to participate in Ranger training in January. After the announcement, we reported that:

“Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, has previously said Army leaders will monitor the pilot program.

” ‘We’re just going to let the statistics speak for themselves as we go through this,’ he said, in response to a question from a soldier at a virtual town hall-style meeting on Jan. 6. ‘The main thing I’m focused on is the standards remain the same.’

“He added: ‘We don’t know if it’s five people graduate, or 100 people graduate, or no one graduates. This is just a pilot to gain information for us to understand where we are, and then we’ll take that data and make a determination on how we want to move forward.’ ”

Tom describes the two-month Ranger training as grueling. It begins in Fort Benning, Ga., where soldiers train in the mountains, and ends in the swamps of Florida. The program admitted women as “part of an effort by Pentagon leaders to determine whether women can be assigned to ground combat units in both the Army and the Marine Corps.”

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True Grit – By Megan H. MacKenzie August 12, 2015

The Myths and Realities of Women in Combat

By January 1, 2016, all positions in the U.S. military, including frontline combat roles, will become open to women—that is, unless the services seek exceptions before October 1. Whether they do will drastically shape the future of the U.S. military.

The exclusion of women from combat in the United States and elsewhere has persisted primarily because of myths and stereotypes associated with female and male capabilities and the military’s “band of brothers” culture. The most persistent of these myths—that women are physically unfit for the demands of war, that the public cannot tolerate female casualties, and that female soldiers limit the cohesion of troops in combat—have been rigorously dismantled by scholars and female soldiers alike in recent years. Today, most Americans support the inclusion of women in combat.

David Hernandez / DOD photo / Handout / REUTERS U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sienna De Santis and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Heidi Dean on a patrol in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, October 2010.

But as the services prepare for female integration, a new myth has come to dominate the debate around the subject: that women who have already served in combat situations—including those who were part of frontline, female-only teams in Afghanistan and Iraq—were in fact deployed primarily to build relationships with local communities and to add a “soft touch” to counterinsurgency operations. Women in the U.S. military, this line of thinking holds, serve as “lady soldiers,” not as true combatants.

In discussions of this myth, the cultural support teams (CSTs), the small female-only units attached to Special Forces and Ranger teams in Afghanistan and tasked with both combat and civilian engagement, have attracted particular attention. Although CSTs were assigned to units on some of the most dangerous combat missions in Afghanistan, claims from public figures that these women took part in the war to “soften” the presence of U.S. troops have contributed to false perceptions that female soldiers remained far from hostile action and that their primary contributions to war relate to their gender, not their capabilities.

Media and military characterizations of CSTs tend to focus on their supposed deescalating effect in hostile areas, their roles in winning “hearts and minds,” and their capacity, to use one common trope, to employ “tea as a weapon” to improve ties with Afghan civilians. Even Eric Olson, a former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and one of the architects of the CST program, claimed that the CSTs’ role “was to be women, not to be combat soldiers.” “The first thing they did when they fast roped out of the first helicopter,” Olson said at the 2015 Aspen Security Forum, “was to take their helmet off, let their hair down, and corral the women and children.”

Women in the U.S. military, this line of thinking holds, serve as “lady soldiers,” not as true combatants. Such “lady soldier” arguments serve an important purpose for policymakers resisting the further integration of female soldiers. Yet as Olson’s statement demonstrates, this position is empirically weak. To claim that women fast roped out of helicopters only to let their hair down is akin to arguing that women took part in night raids so that they could help tuck Afghan children into their beds.


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Human Trafficking & Unregulated Prostitution: Spain’s Sex Supermarket Published on Aug 10, 2015

When it comes to sex work, Spain is in a state of flux. Unspecific laws on prostitution and open European borders have led to a huge stream of migrant women forced into sex work as they attempt to relocate into the country. At the same time, Spain’s economic problems have stirred a growing number of women to take charge of the situation and willingly turn their bodies into a business. Traveling across the country, Spain’s Sex Supermarket highlights the current state of play, speaking to people who work across the sex industry–from the women behind Spain’s first union for prostitutes, to prostitution workshops lead by Spain’s highest paid escort Paula VIP. We also speak to migrant women from Eastern Europe, who have crossed many borders either by force or to take advantage of an insatiable demand in a country where 39% of men have admitted to paying for sex at least once in their lives.

From the beaches of Barcelona, to the nightclubs of Ibiza, to a small town on the border of France where human trafficking has run amok, Broadly explores what happens when sex work goes unregulated and asks what can be done to fix it.

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