Hollywood heavy hitters join the Center for Reproductive Rights today and take on GOP efforts to end abortion and stop the Obama administration’s birth control mandate in the US.
In a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign supported by an online Bill of Reproductive Rights petition, Meryl Streep and a slew of other celebrities call on all Americans to protect every woman’s fundamental "human right" to safe reproductive health care.
The idea they say is to "draw the line" and block anti-choice politicians from turning back the clock on the reproductive rights of American women.
"Every day, the opponents of our fundamental reproductive rights are passing laws designed to take those rights away," says Meryl Streep in her powerful PSA.
"They're shutting down doctors and clinics across the nation. They're making it nearly impossible for millions of women to get the essential healthcare they need."
In a separate PSA, Six Degrees of Separation star Kevin Bacon and Closer actress Kyra Sedgwick join the conversation on the findametal rights of women, along with Lisa Kudrow, Tea Leoni, Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman.
"Over the last few years, the increasingly relentless and hostile nature of the attacks on women's reproductive rights have been on full display—underscoring just how critical it is for Americans to take action and demand these rights be recognized as fundamental," notes Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
"It's time that a women's right to safe and accessible reproductive health care be safeguarded from the political tactics of those who seek to chip it away. It's time for women and men to send a strong message to lawmakers across the country that we are drawing the line."
The Bill of Reproductive Rights states:
We the people of the United States hereby assert the following as fundamental "human rights" that no government may deny and that our governments at every level must guarantee and safeguard for all.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is a powerful international organization fighting for freedom of choice and the reproductive rights of women across the globe. The Center can be located on Facebook at: Facebook.com/ReproductiveRights and on Twitter at: Twitter.com/ReproRights
According to their mission statement, "reproductive freedom lies at the heart of the promise of human dignity, self-determination and equality embodied in both the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." The Center claims to be working toward a time when that promise is enshrined in US law and throughout the world.
Forbes has released its 2012 listing of the world’s most powerful women. For the second year in a row, Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel grabs the number on spot on the list, followed by US secretary of state Hilary Clinton, then Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff.
The highly respected business publication refers to Merkel as the ‘“Iron Lady” of Europe, pointing out how she remains “lead player in the eurozone economic drama that continues to threaten global markets."
Hilary Clinton comes in at number 2, gaining much applause for urging Syrian President Bashar Assad to forfeit power, she also earns more cred for warning North Korean leader Kim Johg Un to chart a different course than that of his militant father. Rallying around the secretary of state, Forbes notes supporters remain hopeful of Clinton making a presidential run.
Following in third place, Forbes cites Rousseff for her leadership and handling of the world's eighth-largest economy, also taking into account approval ratings among her own people.
Melinda Gates a practicing Catholic and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ranks number 4, for using her money, power and influence to challenge the Vatican over its unbending position on birth control.
India’s Sonia Gandhi scrambles up the power ladder and now ranks 6th on the most powerful women in the world list – that’s one step ahead of the US President’s wife.
America’s first lady Michelle Obama strides in at number 7. Forbes says her “positive approval ratings register at 66%". The publication also notes, "The first lady keeps a high profile with her mission to end childhood obesity, her commitment to military families and her stylish fashion picks."
IMFs Managing director Christine Lagard slides in at number 8. The former French cabinet minister has been making the list since its 2004 inception.
For the first time this year’s the most powerful women list features former American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez, and Laurene Powell Jobs, billionaire-philanthropist and widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Others featured on the list include singersBeyonce and Lady Gaga, model Gisele Bundchen, fashion designers Miuccia Prada and Diane von Furstenberg.
Dominated mainly by politicians, businesswomen and media figures the prestigious list features 8-heads of state, one monarch, 11-billionaires and 25-CEOs.
ISL News notes with interest that the average age of the 100-power-brokers is 55 and together these women have a whopping 90-million plus Twitter followers.
Forbes says their world’s 100 most powerful women list “is ranked by money controlled, media presence and impact.”
Below are the Top 10 takers on the "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women" list:
1. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
2. Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State
3. Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil
4. Melinda Gates, Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
5. Jill Abramson, Executive Editor, The New York Times
6. Sonia Gandhi, President, Indian National Congress Party
7. Michelle Obama, US First Lady
8. Christine Lagarde, Head of International Monetary Fund
9. Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of Homeland Security
10. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
"These power women exert influence in very different ways and to very different ends, and all with very different impacts on the global community," said Moira Forbes, president and publisher of ForbesWoman.
Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia and Anne O'Donoghue, MD and Principal Attorney of Immigration Solutions Lawyers spoke exclusively to ISL News on Australia's polarized asylum seeker debate, home detention and political parties unable and/or unwilling to find real and lasting solutions.
United Nations refugee chief Antonio Guterres told a Sydney audience at Lowry Institute recently that Australia's obsession with asylum seekers arriving by boat was ''out of proportion'' and urged the debate be conducted in a "less polarizing manner".
According to UNHCR, even the world's most desperate people appear turned off by the idea of seeking asylum in Australia. Last year the number of asylum seekers soared 20-percent to more than 440,000 worldwide; while the number arriving in Australia fell by 9-percent to 11,500.
A UNHCR official says this puts to rest the misconceptions that Australia is being swamped by asylum seekers and shows, the numbers are modest and manageable when compared to other industrialized nations.
Opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison disagrees claiming Australia had the biggest number of boat arrivals on record over the summer.
As the Refugee Council for Australia points out, countries receiving the largest number of claims are the United States, Germany, France. Italy and Sweden... with Australia way down on the list at just 2-percent.
A former Irish Ambassador shares his personal memories of the late, great Pope Shenouda lll – His Holiness, a recipient of the UNESCO Singh Prize for promoting understanding between Christianity and Islam remained a strong proponent of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue. He was also a supporter of the Palestinian people.
The sometimes controverial religious leader banned members of his congregation from visiting Christian sites in Israel claiming Christians should only go to Jerusalem hand in hand with Muslims once the conflict between Israel and Arab states was resolved.
Richard O’Brien former Irish Ambassador to the Republic of Egypt from 2002, concurrently served as Ambassador to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Sudan; below is his written account of a spiritual leader he grew to respect and admire:
Photography: Michael Selman
I well remember the first time I had the privilege of meeting His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. He had granted me a private audience soon after my arrival in Cairo in late 2002 to take up my appointment as the Ambassador of Ireland to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Sudan. He was warm and welcoming as he recalled his visit to Ireland in the late 1970s to consecrate a new Coptic Church south of Dublin - part of an ever expanding diaspora - and his meeting with the then Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Jack Lynch - 'a true statesman when your country needed him'.
We talked of Ireland - North and South - the peace process and economic development - the Middle East - the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the then impending war in Iraq. But mainly we spoke of his beloved Egypt - the modern nation and the ancient civilisation - of religious toleration, interfaith dialogue and the ecumenical movement - he spoke at length of his native land - of his hopes for the place and the people who were foremost in his heart.
Throughout our conversation I was conscious of the fact that I was in the presence not only of the successor of St. Mark the Apostle, St. Athanasius the Apostolic and St. Cyril the Great but also of the author of much of the modern day renaissance of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Pope Shenouda was first and foremost a person of profound faith - a distinguished theologian - an inspiring orator - a gifted writer - a spiritual father of his people - and intensely a man of God. He reminded me that having served in the Egyptian Army he had begun his priestly ministry in the solitude of the Egyptian desert - in the demanding austerity of monastic life. However, he was soon called by Pope Cyril VI to take charge of Coptic Education and to become President of the Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary. He brought dedication and depth to both of these major responsibilities - under his leadership there was a renewed interest in Coptic learning - the curriculum in schools was transformed and the number of monasteries increased. And then on 14 November 1971 he was called to a higher service when he was consecrated as the 117th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark.
From that time on he became a very public figure - the highly charismatic leader of his people - who never hesitated to intervene when the issue was important - to speak clearly when the cause was just - and to act courageously when the time required it.
Throughout his entire Papacy he was confronted by controversies he did not seek but which his sacred office required that he could not ignore. He became Pope at an especially challenging time for all Egyptians - their country was still emerging from a series of debilitating conflicts - the Suez Crisis of 1956; the Arab Israeli War of 1967; and, the October War of 1971. He worked hard with others across Egyptian society to restore confidence in the community and to unite the social fabric of the nation.
As the Coptic Pope he became the leader of a religious minority in a country where it had once been a majority - the leader of a religious tradition that has had a profound influence on the culture and philosophy of the Middle East - and the leader of a religious community that continues to contribute to the vibrant life of modern Egypt - as its members combine their rich Arab traditions with their own Christian distinctiveness.
Indeed, in many respects the Coptic Church is at the forefront of those Christian communities who are challenged to contribute the wisdom and insights of their faith to societies that are in profound transformation - as is now the case in an Egypt challenged by the opportunity to correct the structural imbalances of the past and to create a new democratic - transparently accountable and publicly responsive - constitutional order. There is no doubt that Christians in Egypt - like other Christian communities across the Middle East - will be both elated and anxious about the onset of the 'Arab Spring'. They will be elated by the promise of freedom - of responsible and responsive government - as well as of the end to submissiveness and manipulation - among the inevitable consequences of authoritarianism and dictatorship. They will also be anxious and apprehensive since their fate - how their rights and role are respected - will be a crucial barometer in measuring how successful the Arab Spring will have been in bringing into existence a new order which aspires to cherish all the members of the Arab family.
That apprehension is of course reinforced by the fact that the twentieth century was not kind to Christian communities across the Middle East. It is a region in which Christianity could not have the advantage of nationality - indeed if such is ever an advantage. However, the one-time Christian majority in Lebanon is now a minority - the number of Christians in Syria has halved - substantial numbers of Christians have left Iraq and Iran - an estimated 230,000 Christians have left the Holy Land since 1948 and the Christian population of Jerusalem which was then reportedly 30,000 has now declined to some 5,000. In the case of Egypt it is presently estimated that some 12% of the members of the Coptic Orthodox Church live beyond its borders - mainly across Europe, in the United States and Canada and here in Australia. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring it is said that some 350,000 Coptic Christians have moved abroad - again a number have been welcomed in this Great South Land under the Southern Cross!
Throughout all of these turbulent times Pope Shenouda was ever to remain an unwavering prophet of hope - constantly advocating engaged citizenship - staunchly dedicated to interfaith dialogue - and deeply committed to the relevance of Coptic Christianity. His was a vision that was not always easy to realise nor was it universally accepted. There were to be many moments of tension and disagreement. Despite his strong encouragement the numbers of Copts in high public office - and in Parliament - began to decline - although there were some outstanding exceptions including the former Secretary General of the United Nations - the renowned Dr. Butros Butros Ghali. In more recent years there were the tensions with fundamentalist - and later militant - Islam which occasionally spilled over into violence.
I was in Alexandria in late 2005 and saw the aftermath of the anti-Coptic riots that had erupted some days earlier in Egypt's foremost Mediterranean City. It was Egypt's worst outbreak of sectarian violence in many years - a stark reminder of the religious tensions lurking just beneath the surface of a society under stress. Again the Pope was at the forefront of efforts to restore calm in a joint message encouraging dialogue and understanding with his good friend Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi - Egypt's Grand Imam.
During the previous year the Irish Embassy in Cairo had assisted the inspiring and immensely energetic Anglican Archbishop of Egypt - the Most Reverend Mouneer Annis - to organise the visit of an Ecumenical Mission from Ireland to Egypt which included Dr. John Neill - the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin - and Dr. John McAreavey the Catholic Bishop of Dromore. The Delegation was warmly received across Egyptian society - including by the then Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit when both sides firmly rejected the suggestion of a growing 'conflict of civilisations' - by the then Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa (now a candidate for the Egyptian Presidency) who discussed the war in Iraq and the role of interfaith dialogue in conflict resolution - by the Grand Imam and the Grand Mufti who talked about the growing Muslim communities across Ireland and their contribution to interfaith understanding - and by the Catholic Patriarch who interrupted his annual retreat to meet with the Irish Delegation.
All of these meetings were impressive and important, but I recall the meeting with Pope Shenouda - especially at this time - with great affection and respect. Once more I came away with a renewed understanding of his commitment to dialogue - international and local - interfaith and ecumenical - as well as of his engaging sense of humour. He clearly rejoiced in the strong relationships that had developed between the leaders of Egypt's religious traditions and equally longed to have that same spirit permeate across all sectors of Egyptian society. He was happy to have been the first Coptic Pope to visit the Holy See in 1500 years when in 1973 he journeyed to meet Pope Paul VI in Vatican City and together they provided a unique impetus to the dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches. It was also clear that he was a man devoted to peace who had stood apart - and suffered internal exile for doing so - from the terms of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty - because of the unresolved issue of Jerusalem - but it was clear that he continued to long for a comprehensive regional agreement that would secure Palestinian rights, the future of refugees, the finalisation of borders and the status of settlements.
His Holiness died on this St. Patrick's Day - 17 March - at the age of 88. His was a Papacy of more than four decades. Since the moment of his passing he has been greatly mourned and he will continue to be profoundly missed - for he has left his mark on history. The person who more than anybody else personified the insistence of Coptic Christians for parity of esteem and equality of citizenship in their own country is no longer with them. Pope Shenouda and his Coptic Orthodox Church lived together through times which - in the words of Shakespeare - were often "winnowed with so rough a wind". The search will now begin for his successor - a person who will have to meet the complex challenges of the present and look the future - inspired by Pope Shenouda's wisdom and confidence - as Egypt continues its journey towards embracing a new constitutional settlement amid all the turbulence of a revolutionary transformation - "the birth pangs of a new era".
Paul Power, CEO Refugee Council of Australia addressed the Immigration Lawyers Association of Australasia breakfast meeting March 10, 2012 at the 6th annual CPD Law Conference. His focus was on asylum seekers, detention centres and a divisive political debate. Below is an authorized transcript of that speech.
Two weeks ago I had what has probably been the most positive experience of my six years as CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia. For the 12 months to July this year, Australia is chairing the international dialogue on refugee resettlement which brings together governments and NGOs from resettlement states and senior officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
This dialogue largely focuses on issues relating to the selection and preparation of refugees for resettlement but I suggested that Australia should put on a sharper focus on the post-arrival support of refugees by hosting a meeting of the Working Group on Resettlement in Melbourne. This group had never met before outside of Europe or North America. Despite some initial concerns that few people would come to Melbourne because of the distance and cost, the meeting attracted 87 delegates from 18 countries – government, NGO and UNHCR people involved in senior management roles in refugee resettlement programs.
The meeting was chaired by Jim O’Callaghan from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and co-chaired by me, and was organised with an impressive level of cooperation from people in various government and non-government organisations. We organised two days of site visits to refugee settlement programs in Melbourne, Geelong and Shepparton, showing examples of good practice of support services for on-arrival orientation, housing, health, education and employment. We explained how different levels of government work with the non-government sector and with business. Visiting delegates met many former refugees involved in all aspects of the support of new arrivals and heard how feedback from, and the involvement of, former refugees had been critical to incremental improvements to services over the past 65 years. The two-day formal gathering which followed discussed different approaches to support services, multiculturalism and the contribution of former refugees to their new society.
I was expecting that the gathering would create a great deal of energy and interest but the feedback from the visiting delegates was even more positive than I had dared to hope. The gathering confirmed that, while we all know that there is room for improvement, Australia has the most comprehensive and sophisticated systems of support for resettled refugees anywhere in the world.
But while the visiting delegates were effusive in their praise of our settlement support services for refugees, they were also asking questions in the meeting breaks and over lunch and dinner about the political debates about asylum which were being reported in the media. How is it that so many asylum seekers are in detention? Are recognised refugees with adverse security decisions really left in detention indefinitely? Is the debate about flows of asylum seekers to Australia really only about six or seven thousand arrivals per year? Aren’t Australians aware of the numbers of asylum seekers flowing from the Horn of Africa to Yemen, from North Africa to Europe or from many countries into the United States and Canada? Is the Opposition serious about suggesting that boats be turned back to Indonesia? Does anyone in the Government consider international law when looking at its detention policies?
People centrally involved in their own national debates about refugee policy in their countries in Europe and North America still have difficulty understanding why the Australian national debate about asylum is so high-profile, so divisive and is so disconnected from international refugee needs. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, is a highly skilled diplomat. But he had to acknowledge during his visit to Australia last month that he found it hard to share Australian politicians’ concerns about the small numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat to this country when he compares it to the scale of humanitarian needs he sees in many other parts of the world.
The needs of refugees and asylum seekers seem to bring out the best and worst in our national character. The question for Australians who are upset by the unacceptability of policies which hurt asylum seekers is: How do we respond? What positive steps can we take to reclaim the initiative on refugee policy?
Recently I met the Melbourne filmmaker Robin Hughan to discuss her current work with refugees in South-East Asia and the meeting prompted me to look again at the film she released in 2008 called “A Nun’s New Habit”. It tells the story of Sr Carmel Wauchope, a nun in her seventies who, after a lifetime in schools and community work in rural South Australia, felt she could no longer remain silent when she saw the crushing impacts of long-term detention on asylum seekers. Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie are not known as centres for political action but members of the Christian communities in those towns became very actively engaged in visiting and supporting asylum seekers in Woomera and Baxter detention centres and in advocating for change with Federal Parliamentarians – as did people in many other suburbs and towns across the country through movements such as Rural Australians for Refugees, the Circle of Friends in South Australia and through countless community and faith-based groups.
The unacceptability of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and the provocative way in which asylum issues have been debated by political leaders have encouraged many people who would otherwise be inactive politically to speak up about the wrongs that they see. This is even noticed at international meetings organised by UNHCR in Geneva where I’m regularly asked why Australian NGOs are so active, so organised and so vocal. To understand this, you have to go back 10 to 12 years ago to a time when Australia’s then Immigration Minister was regularly participating UNHCR meetings in Geneva to promote his government’s detention policies and its new Pacific solution. In response, NGOs had to get organised to publicise the damaging nature of these policies, to let the world know of the suffering of asylum seekers in Australia and to make clear that many Australians opposed these policies. Today, Australian NGOs are centrally involved in international alliances to raise issues of detention and refugee rights well beyond Australia’s shores and have played an important role in supporting refugee representatives, particularly refugee women, to take their concerns directly to international decision makers in Geneva.
Other Australians respond just as effectively but in a quite different way. Brad Chilcott, a Pentecostal pastor in Adelaide, last year saw the need for a non-political response to the never-ending political debate about asylum. He formed Welcome to Australia, a community initiative which engages Australians in cultivating a culture of welcome in our country. Brad believes there are thousands of Australians who don’t care much for politics and don’t know much about immigration policy but do know that they care about people. His organisation promotes parties and local gatherings of welcome for new arrivals, sharing of stories and is promoting the idea of street walks of welcome in Refugee Week this year.
Some of the most effective responses to the inequities of Australia’s asylum policy have come from people such as yourselves – practitioners in immigration law. In the past 18 months, we have seen three vitally important High Court judgements which have resulted from highly effective pro bono work from talent lawyers. In these judgements, the High Court has determined that:
Work by lawyers on behalf of asylum seekers is so vital that I would encourage you, if you are not already involved, to explore how you might assist. People in this room know far more about this than I do. However, there are opportunities for lawyers to get involved in working with IAAAS providers in the vital work of visiting remote detention centres to provide legal advice and representation to newly arrived asylum seekers. There is a great need for lawyers to provide pro-bono assistance to asylum seekers seeking judicial review of asylum determinations. And we need lawyers who are prepared to explore possibilities for running test cases aimed at restoring rights to people seeking protection from persecution.
When we consider current Australian refugee policy, we do live, to borrow a line from Charles Dickens, in the best of times and the worst of times. As I have outlined, it is possible simultaneously to be very proud and deeply embarrassed by different aspects of our national policy. But we have many examples around us of people who were not content to do nothing in response to additional suffering inflicted on asylum seekers in Australia. It is our choice whether or not we join them.
With the recent announcement from the federal opposition on immigration and population, several people spoke up about the need of Australia and the rest of the world to maintain its migration levels
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, the head of Australia Industry Groups Heather Ridout said that it was ridiculous to suggest that Australia’s population growth is out of control. “If we are going to make that choice to restrict migrants, over the years we are going to have to pay higher taxes to support an ageing population. “ Former member of the Migration and Refugee Review Tribunal Professor Mirko Bargaric, is of the opinion that the idea of migration will not only benefit Australia but could also end worldwide poverty. He believes that at the moment:
“Even in the supposed enlightenment of the 21st century, most still prefer people of their own type and find different cultures jarring. Foreigners are tolerated, but only to the extent that they have something to offer”
Professor Bargaric ‘s comment is of a reasonable one, as the Coalition’s plan when elected to government is to still allow skilled migration but cut on family reunion stream. Therefore, unless a person has a high enough English skill and work in a high-value profession or an occupation where skill shortages occur in Australia, he or she would have little to no chance of migrating to Australia. Professor Bargaric then said that migration into western countries, including Australia will likely to have a positive effect not only on the economy of each country but also to the world in general:
“The best way to ameliorate Third World poverty is by massively increasing migration to the West. Left to their own devices many people would gravitate to life-sustaining resources, leading to a rough equilibrium between the world's resources and its population”
It will be interesting to see what my readers and fellow practitioners have to say. What do you think?
Immigration Solutions Lawyers continually monitors the law and regulation closely for any changes and observes the political climate to anticipate any possible changes that might impact on our current and future clients... More
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