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For the first time in Winter Olympics history, an Iranian woman will compete for her country, reported CNN on Feb. 10. Marjan Kalhor, 21, will head the Iranian team in Vancouver, Canada, as the Olympics kicked off Feb. 12.

"I always asked my brother, ‘Why can’t a woman compete in the Winter Olympics?’" Kalhor told CNN, remembering watching the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. "Since Turin, I’ve told myself that if Iran allows women to compete in the next Olympics, I have to be the first."

While banners of Kalhor are scattered all over Tehran, it’s unknown whether Iran will even broadcast the Olympics, the article reported. In the past, the government has blocked viewers.

Kalhor will be joined by three male Iranian athletes, Poria Saveh Shemshak, Hossein Saveh Shemshak and Seyed Sattar Seyd. The Iranian team will be the only one from the Middle East to participate in the games.

Iran has sent male athletes to the Winter Games nine times since 1956, but none has returned home with medals.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, the first nonprofit sexuality resource and information center on the East Coast, was granted a permit to open in Pawtucket, R.I., Feministing reported Feb. 11. Despite months of controversy and opposition during a battle over zoning permits, covered by the WeNews, the center is now open for business. Megan Andelloux, a board certified sexologist and sexuality educator and the founder and director of the center, has been in a legal battle over the opening since September.


  • A free program called "Text4baby" was launched last week to educate and encourage healthy habits in pregnant women, The Washington Post reported Feb. 9. As part of a new government effort, the program sends tips in English or Spanish to expectant mothers who opt in to receive pregnancy-related text messages on their cell phones. The messages will cover topics such as nutrition, flu prevention and treatment and immunization schedules. Text4baby messages also connect women to public clinics and support services for prenatal and infant care. Voxiva, the firm administering the service, is hoping that the project will raise the profile of such messages as a tool for delivering health services in the United States.




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A Canadian think tank gave the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee, the British Columbia government and the federal government an "F" for failing to make sure women and youth are secure against human trafficking during the 2010 Winter Olympics, British Columbia’s Alberni Valley Times reported Feb. 10. The Citizens Summit Against Sex Slavery, a coalition of women’s groups, academics and politicians, made the announcement on Feb. 9.

Benjamin Perrin, a law professor at the University of British Columbia specializing in human trafficking, said he knew of "dozens" of young women, mostly from major urban centers and native reserves, who were being sent to Vancouver to deal with an expected surge of tourists seeking prostitutes. Spikes in prostitution often coincide with mass sporting events, he added.

Vancouver police aren’t planning any crackdown on prostitution during the games, the article reported.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • Scott Roeder, who was convicted of killing Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, has little sympathy for the family of his victim, comparing them to the relatives of a hit man in a recording posted online, the Associated Press reported Feb. 9. Roeder was convicted Jan. 29 of first-degree murder for shooting Tiller last May, as the doctor served as an usher at his Wichita church. He also was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault for threatening two ushers who tried to stop him after the shooting. He will be sentenced March 9. In his first public comments since his trial, Roeder also criticized those who tried to keep the issue of abortion out of the proceedings altogether, saying it was like asserting that the trial for abolitionist John Brown was not about slavery.


  • Maryam Ghanbari, a 27-year-old lawyer and women’s rights activist, was arrested at her home in Tehran, Iran, on Feb. 8 by five Iranian security officers, according to her lawyer, Mina Jafari, a Women Living Under Muslim Laws release reported. Where Ghanbari was taken and is being held is unknown, as well as any formal charges she might be facing. Ghanbari has been very active in the national women’s movement’s struggles against the draft of a new family law that includes laws on divorce, fixed-term marriage contracts for men, child custody and legislation that would allow a man to take a second wife without the permission of the first in certain circumstances, the release reported. She is also part of the Volunteer Lawyers Network, a voluntary legal service for vulnerable women.


  • Attacks on women are increasing in the Haiti earthquake aftermath, the Canadian Press reported Feb. 7. Melanie Brooks of CARE, an organization trying to address women’s security needs in Haiti, said women are being raped, assaulted and harassed by men while they bathe, but they have no place to report these incidents since many police stations and government buildings are now in rubble. Aid groups are trying to protect women by making women-only food coupon distribution locations and luring men to separate areas while women are being served at these exclusive sites. Haiti’s communications minister, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, said the government recognizes the need to protect women and children at risk, but, she said, its first priority is to provide food, shelter, and remove debris.


  • Pregnancy-related deaths in California have risen at a faster rate during the last 10 years than at any time since the 1930s, reported AlterNet.org Feb. 2. Doctors say obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and caesarian complications are all possible factors. A state Department of Health report, not yet made public, indicates maternal mortality rate trends are currently worse in California than in Kuwait or Bosnia, reported AlterNet. On Jan. 26 the nation’s leading health care accreditation and standards group alerted hospitals to beware that California’s trend could be an indicator of a national trend.



  • A Texas nurse was acquitted Feb. 11 of criminal charges of misuse of official information against a doctor she accused of unethical conduct at Winkler County hospital in Kermit, reported the Associated Press. Advocacy groups say the case will have a long-term impact on anonymous whistleblowers who have information that could help ensure patient safety. Nurse Anne Mitchell filed a complaint with the Texas Medical Board after she alleged Dr. Rolando Arafiles inappropriately asked his patients to purchase herbal medicines and wanted to perform on one patient with hospital equipment at the patient’s residence, the article reported.


  • Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to make maternal and child health care his top priority at the G8 summit in Muskoka, Ontario, in June, reported Canwest News Service Feb. 7. Health practitioners, like Canadian surgeon and liberal member of parliament Keith Martin, however, are worried that including abortion among the family planning services offered in Harper’s plan of action around maternal health will jeopardize its approval at the summit. "My fear is that the domestic debate about abortion will hijack the larger and more important issue of saving women’s lives and implementing those simple interventions that can be used to save these women’s lives," Martin said in the article.


  • Lauren Chinchilla was elected as Costa Rica’s first female president Feb. 7, reported the Associated Press Feb. 8. "Today we are making history," said Chinchilla, who will be the fifth Latin American woman to serve as president when she takes office in May. A social conservative, Chinchilla opposes abortion and gay marriage.


  • In his proposed 2011 budget, President Barack Obama addresses the needs of low-income and disadvantaged people and calls for extending the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Fund, which ends on Sept. 30, 2010. But the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C-based nonprofit think tank, is concerned that about 50,000 people will lose their jobs if this fund is not enacted by Congress now, it reported on Feb. 5. The organization is asking Congress to reauthorize the fund right away and not through a federal budget process.

In Memoriam:

Susan Hill, 61, a national women’s rights advocate and the owner of several abortion clinics around the country, died of breast cancer Jan. 30, reported the Philadelphia Enquirer Feb. 7. Hill opened more clinics in the United States than anyone else, particularly in rural areas where women do not have access to abortion services. She sued protesters 34 times for blocking entrances and preventing women from going into the facilities. "She’s probably the toughest person I ever knew," said her older brother, Dan Hill. "She’s the only person I knew who wore a bulletproof vest to work or was supposed to wear one to work. People really wanted to kill her, and she never flinched."