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The Military Leadership Diversity Commission, a blue-ribbon panel created by Congress, says the Defense Department should eliminate restrictions on women serving in combat units and end all "gender restrictive policies, the Air Force Times reported Dec. 8. The move would end the military’s all-male combat units and open up career fields like infantry and armor to qualified women.

An analysis by the commission indicates that the many longstanding reasons for keeping women out of combat units do not hold up under scrutiny. Women do not lack the physical ability to perform combat roles, gender integration will not negatively affect unit cohesion and women are not more likely than men to develop mental health problems. However, keeping women out of these jobs can reduce their career opportunities significantly.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg topped the list of the most powerful working mothers for 2010, according to Workingmother.com.
  • The gender pay gap has narrowed in the U.K., according to the latest results from the Office for National Statistics, Telegraph reported Dec. 8.
  • A bill aimed at preventing sexual harassment of women in the workplace was introduced in the Indian parliament on Dec. 7, Sify News reported.
  • ESPN has launched its new Web site for women, the Associated Press reported Dec. 7. ESPNW debuted as a blog Dec. 6, with a larger site aimed at female fans and athletes to go up in the spring.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has targeted the new 10-year goals for Americans’ health with Health People 2020, which includes supporting breastfeeding, reported Medical News Today Dec. 6.
  • The Senate voted unanimously to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act to aid women and girls in developing countries, reported Ms. Magazine Dec. 3.




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The latest health report card for women, issued by the National Women’s Law Center and Oregon Health and Science University, gives the United States a grade of "unsatisfactory," with many Fs on specific goals set by the government’s Healthy People 2010 initiative, reported the New York Times Dec. 9.

More women are binge drinking, fewer are being screened for cervical cancer, more are diabetic and hypertensive and more are testing positive for chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease linked to infertility. Obesity is also a growing problem, with 26.4 percent of women considered obese, up from 24 percent in 2007.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Iran denied reports on Dec. 10 that it had freed a woman sentenced to death by stoning after human rights campaigners released unconfirmed reports to the press that announced her release, reported the New York Times.
  • Idaho’s rape-by-fraud statute doesn’t protect the unwed and can only be filed if a woman is tricked into believing the person committing the act is her husband, the Associated Press reported Dec. 8.
  • Displaced Iraqi female-headed families who have returned home are still experiencing major livelihood challenges, with 74 percent struggling to find adequate nutrition for their families, IRIN News reported Dec. 7.
  • Female students at Boston University are now being ranked based on looks on RateBU.com, the Washington Post reported Dec. 7.
  • Displaced Somali women who seek shelter from violence in refugee camps risk being raped in the camp, the Associated Press reported Dec. 7. Rapists stalk women in the camps, according to the article.
  • A gender equality campaign group in the U.K. has been refused permission to challenge the legality of the proposed budget cuts that would disproportionately affect women, reported Sky News Dec. 6.
  • The European Union governments have rejected the plan to extend fully paid maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks, reported the Vancouver Sun Dec. 6.


  • The European Court of Human Rights will issue a ruling next week on whether Ireland’s restrictions on abortion, currently illegal unless the mother’s life is at risk, violate women’s human rights, reported the Irish Times Dec. 10.
  • The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act passed in the House but has been stalled in the Senate, reported Ms. Magazine Dec. 9.
  • Iran’s annual "Marriage Day" was renamed "No Divorce Day," a day when no divorce permits would be issued, due to concern about the increase in Iranian women seeking divorce, the New York Times reported Dec. 6.
  • The majority of U.S. women do not trust Sarah Palin on women’s health issues, including abortion, contraception and sex education, according to a poll conducted for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Politico reported Dec. 7.
  • A senior Muslim cleric has denounced the participation of Iranian women in the Asian Games while President Ahmadinejad praised Iran’s female athletes, reported the Washington Post Dec. 6.
  • The Supreme Court will consider throwing out a massive lawsuit that claims Wal-Mart pays women less than men and promotes women less frequently, reported the Associated Press Dec. 6.

In Memoriam:

Elizabeth Edwards died the morning of Dec. 7 of breast cancer at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C., at age 61.

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