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A woman has thrown her hat into the ring to run for the highest-ranking political position in Europe. Margot Wallstrom, currently vice president of the European Commission and a former minister in the Swedish government, is seeking the presidency of the European Council, the European Union’s highest political body that joins together 500 million people, the Huffington Post reported June 9.

Wallstrom is running for a new position that will replace the current presidential rotation among 27 member nations. The change is part of the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon, slated to take effect next January if ratified by all 27 countries. The treaty would strengthen the bloc’s institutions and streamline some operations. On Friday, Irish voters rejected the treaty in a national vote after concerns were publicly raised that it would force the nation to discard its abortion ban, Agence France-Presse reported.

Wallstrom has been involved in EU technological developments and is known for her push to bring Europeans closer to the EU system through blogs and Web sites. The EU’s top-ranking positions have been male-dominated but about one-third of the European Parliament’s members are women, about double the female representation rate in the U.S. Congress.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Egypt’s parliament toughened penalties for those convicted of female genital mutilation on June 7, AFP reported. The act is now punishable with three months to two years in prison or a fine between $190 and $940. Restrictions against the cultural practice were strengthened in June 2007.
  • High-ranking military officials from peacekeeping countries and women from war zones addressed the United Nations Security Council on June 11 on how to stop wartime sexual violence that has affected thousands of girls and women. Their recommendations included increasing health services, democratic participation and accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence. U.N. peacekeepers have previously been associated with rape cases in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
  • The Chinese government has sent medical teams to offer free operations to reverse sterilization to women who lost their only child in May’s earthquake, the AFP reported June 7. Due to China’s one-child family planning policy, women generally undergo sterilization surgery after their first birth. Now, families that have lost their only child will be allowed to have another. About 70,000 people died in the earthquake and 18,000 are reported as missing. Among the dead, 7,000 were the only children in their family.


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After Fox News referred to Sen. Barack’s Obama’s wife, Michelle Obama, as “Obama’s baby mama” in news captions on June 11, media watchers continue to debate the role of sexist coverage in the presidential campaign following months of controversy over the way Sen. Hillary Clinton was characterized for her gender.

“Like her or not, one of the great lessons of that campaign is the continued–and accepted–role of sexism in American life, particularly in the media,” said Katie Couric, anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” on a June 11 video post on the CBS Web site.

In a June 13 front page story, the New York Times reported on how Clinton’s supporters are proposing a cable news boycott and a national discussion about sexism. But men had the lion’s share of opportunity to comment: All three “expert” sources quoted on the front page were male–Phil Griffin, senior vice president of NBC News; Rem Rieder, editor of American Journalism Review; and Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University–and of the nine people quoted in the article, six were men.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The weekly program “Women” from the U.N.’s Radio English Service is in danger of being cut. Diane Bailey, chief of the English language unit at U.N. Radio, said elimination of the program is being discussed, but no decision has been made. U.N. Radio covers United Nations activities at its New York headquarters and around the world. “Women” reports on issues of gender violence, war, women’s rights and development. The program began in 1979 at the first women’s conference in Mexico City. Until 2001, the program was broadcast on 435 stations around the world; it’s currently carried by the World Radio Network, which distributes content to public radio networks.
  • Among Myanmar’s cyclone survivors, up to 35,000 are pregnant women in need of proper maternal health care, the Associated Press reported June 12. The U.N. Population Fund has provided supplies for victims of the storm to health clinics in 10 affected townships but the military junta that rules Myanmar has slowed the cyclone response. The country had a maternal death rate of 380 per 100,000 births before the cyclone, which is four times the rate in nearby Thailand and 60 times that of Japan.
  • In Iraqi Kurdistan, the regional government is updating a 1959 personal status law concerning marriage, divorce and inheritance that was considered progressive at the time because it prohibited girls under 15 from marrying and restricted polygamy, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting reported June 10. The new law, based on Islam, would restrict women’s rights in divorce and inheritance and would allow men to have four wives.
  • A year after the murder of Afghan radio journalist Zakia Zaki, no one has been brought to trial. Reporters Without Borders and Zaki’s family members are condemning the impunity, saying that it has opened the door to violence against female journalists. Since Zaki’s murder, there have been 15 other female journalists attacked or threatened in Afghanistan.
  • A nationwide campaign to persuade teens to delay sex and use condoms is faltering. Teen sexual activity is on the rise and condom use is down among high school teens, according to a survey by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Washington Post reported June 5.
  • On June 10 a court in Athens, Greece, heard a case from the Aegean island of Lesbos, whose citizenry wish to prevent homosexual women from calling themselves lesbians, the Guardian reported June 10. People from Lesbos say the term should only be associated with their island. Human rights activists have said the case is an act of homophobia.
  • Although the number of European women in science research has increased in recent years, a gender gap persists, according to a survey of 143 scientists issued by the European Commission June 11. Women continue to receive lower salaries than men, and 56 percent of female scientists are employed on a permanent basis compared to 84 percent of men.

Besa Luci is originally from Kosovo and a recent graduate from University of Missouri, Graduate School of Journalism.

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