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Major Margaret Witt, a decorated flight nurse dismissed under the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, will be able to resume her service with the U.S. Air Force, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington announced Nov. 23 in a press release.

Witt will become the first openly gay person to serve in the military due to a court order invalidating the Clinton-era "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. The ACLU-WA has represented Witt in a four-year-long lawsuit seeking her reinstatement.

In September, the U.S. District Court for Western Washington ordered the Air Force to reinstate Witt. After six days of trial, the court found that Witt’s sexual orientation does not negatively impact unit morale or cohesion. On Nov. 23, the government filed an appeal of that ruling, but it is not seeking a stay of the order to reinstate Witt.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Dr. Babatunde Ostimehin has been appointed as the new head of the United Nations Population Fund, reported the U.N. Nov. 19. Osotimehin, a champion of reproductive health and rights, will be responsible for key policies to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
  • Former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, went on trial at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands on Nov. 22. He’s accused of permitting his troops to rape hundreds of women, children and men, reported Reuters Nov. 22.
  • The announced results of a clinical trial on Nov. 23 showed that taking an antiretroviral drug regularly may prevent an HIV-negative person from becoming infected if exposed to HIV, RHRealityCheck reported Nov. 23. The pill could benefit women because it can be taken by a woman on her own, without the cooperation of a partner, the blog stated.


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Nicaraguan authorities should take steps to eradicate the rape and widespread sexual abuse of girls, Amnesty International said Nov. 24 in a report, according to a press statement from the organization. The report, part of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign, follows the experiences of survivors and documents that the nation has failed to help them rebuild their lives after sexual violence.

Between 1998 and 2008, more than 14,000 cases of rape and sexual abuse were reported, according to Nicaraguan police statistics. Two-thirds of the victims were under the age of 17.The most common perpetrators of rape and sexual abuse are family members.

The report also documents that Nicaraguan society stigmatizes victims of sexual abuse and that sex is a taboo subject, inhibiting girls from speaking out about their ordeals.

Nicaragua also has the most stringent anti-abortion regulations in the region.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • A northern Indian village has banned unmarried women from using cell phones for fear they will arrange forbidden marriages that are often punished by death, a local official said Nov. 24, the AssociatedPress reported. The Lank village council decided unmarried young men could use mobile phones, but only under parental supervision.


  • The Vatican clarified Nov. 23 that Pope Benedict XVI’s stance on condom use is a lesser evil than transmitting HIV for some, including women, the AssociatedPress reported.
  • Feminism is the latest card being played by both government and opposition in Egypt, days before the Nov. 28 parliamentary elections, the MediaLine reported Nov. 23. Women currently make up 2 percent of the Egyptian parliament, but a new quota system for women may change this, the article reported.
  • The Israeli military said its monitoring of Facebook has helped catch 1,000 women lying about their religious background to avoid serving, the PressAssociation reported Nov. 23.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its annual report on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States Nov. 23. The data, for 2009, show a continued high burden of STDs, but also indicates some signs of progress. The U.S. gonorrhea rate, for example, is the lowest ever recorded.

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