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Did You Watch It? "Makers: Women Who Make America"

Last night, PBS aired Makers: Women Who Make America a joint effort documentary by PBS and AOL, which chronicles the last 50 years of the women’s liberation movement in the United States. If you missed it, here’s your chance to watch it all online.

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LATEST ON VAWA: House Backing Down

Tuesday night, the Rules Commission added a caveat in the House bill that if it isn’t passed, a vote for the Senate bill will take place in the House. Democrats expect that the House will finish debating the GOP version of the bill on Wednesday or Thursday and fail to get enough votes; then will vote and receive the necessary votes on the Senate-passed bill and send it to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

To read more, go here.

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Women To See Higher Prices For Long-Term Care Insurance

Genworth Financial, the country’s largest long-term care insurer, has announced that starting this spring it will take gender into account when setting premiums on new policies. The reason is because for every three dollars, two is spent on claims by women. This will have detrimental ramifications because:

“The change will mean that rates for female applicants could be up to 40% higher under the new pricing policy” says Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care.

Furthermore, on top of the raise in cost, new applicants will be required to undergo a medical exam. To read more, visit NPR

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House Introduces Own VAWA Bill

On Friday, House GOP leaders released their own Violence Against Women Act bill that strips protection for the LGBT community by removing all mention of sexual orientation and gender identity from the bill and also adding a loophole for Native American victims. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) a chief advocate for VAWA in the Senate blasted the House bill, saying: 

“It’s not a compromise, it’s an unfortunate effort to exclude specific groups of women from receiving basic protections under the law… The protections included in the Senate for new communities of women are not bargaining chips that can be played with in order to appease the far right in their party. These are badly needed new tools to give women an escape from a life stunted by abuse… It’s time for moderate Republicans in the House to step up and finally force their leadership to stop ignoring the calls of women across the country.” 

To read more, click here.

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Negative Impact of the Sequester on Women and Families

According to a new state-by-state analysis released today by the Center for American Progress, if Congress fails to act by March 1, millions of women and children across the United States could lose the critical support and services they need. 

“By refusing to replace the sequester with smarter spending cuts, conservative members of Congress are continuing their track record of sacrificing the lives and livelihood of millions women and their children to protect millionaires and special interests. Congressional inaction would prevent women from accessing health care programs and childcare assistance... If Congress leaves the sequester un-checked millions of women, in every state in the nation, will pay for the inaction of a few members of Congress” said Tara McGuinness, Senior Vice President for Communications at the Center for American Progress.

The sequester will have devastating ramifications by slashing about $725 million from Title I funding which would affect 2,700 schools and place 9,880 teachers at risk of losing their jobs. Furthermore, the sequester would cut federal programs that help women access critical health care programs and endanger the health of children by cutting Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). To have a complete look at the effects of the sequester click here

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South Korea’s First Female President Sworn into Office

History was made in South Korea today as the first female president, Park Geun-Hye, of the Saenuri Party was sworn into office. She enters the office in a country that is divided about her leadership depending on their opinion of her father, Park Chung-Hee, who took power after a coup d’etat and ruled for 18 years. 

Some view Park Chung-Hee as a dictator who ignored human rights, while others regard him as building the foundation for South Korea’s present prosperity. 

Park Geun-Hye, carrying the legacy of her father, has apologized for the human rights violations during his rule but many criticize that enough has not been done. The country now waits to see her leadership in the midst of a tense relationship with North Korea and South Korea’s economy. Read more at the New York Times and CNN

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Personal Encounters Lead to Push for Women’s Advocacy

Melanne Verveer, the first U.S. ambassador for Global Women’s issues has been urging governments and leaders around the world on improving the lives of women. 

As she begins her new journey as the Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, she reflected on her tenure as ambassador and the personal encounters that she had along the way that drove her to raise awareness on the sufferings of women.   When asked about her guiding principle of women’s advocacy, Verveer cited a conversation she had with an Afghan woman in Kabul, 

Please don’t see us as victims but as the women leader we are

To read more about Melanne Verveer’s leadership in empowering women, read here


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Egyptian Women Speak Out Against Sexual Violence

Violence against women at protests is at a chronic level due to security breakdowns and mass protests that are not policed. As Heba Morayef, Egypt director for Human Rights Watch says organized, opportunistic men are raping women and they are getting away with it. Furthermore, the culture of silence that blames the victims rather than the perpetrator prevails from members of the upper house of Egypt’s parliament and other women which further violates these women. 

However, as the number of victims increase, these women are rising up and speaking up against the violence. To read and to hear more, visit NPR

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Afghan Women and Girls Victims Increases, UN Says

On Tuesday, the United Nations reported that the number of civilian casualties fell for the first time since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) started measuring casualties in 2007. However, there has been a increase in the number of Afghan women and girls killed or injured in the last year while going about their daily lives. From Reuters: 

But despite the good news, the United Nations said there had been a 20 percent increase in the number of Afghan women and girls killed or injured in 2012, with more than 300 women and girls killed and more than 560 injured.

To read more, visit Reuters

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An Amazing Journey

From the Senate staff to the 2008 campaign to the White House, Joshua DuBois has been President Obama’s top faith advisor. Last week, DuBois resigned as the director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. On CNN Belief Blog, he shares reflections on his journey and what is ahead – writing a book, launching a new social enterprise, teaching and speaking. DuBois concludes:

“As a committed African-American Pentecostal, I never thought I could become such dear friends with so many in the faith community  Christians and Muslims, Hindus and Jews, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats  who care first about God, and second about their neighbors, and seek to live this care out into the world. I would hope to honor those friendships, continue to serve this good president, and let my life and work be a song of worship in the exciting days ahead.”

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House Passes Bill Requiring FEMA to Deliver Storm Aid to Houses of Worship

Following more than 200 houses of worship being denied FEMA aid following Superstorm Sandy, on Feb. 13, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 592 with a vote of 354-72, to clarify that houses of worship are “eligible for certain disaster relief and emergency assistance on terms equal to other eligible private nonprofit facilities, and for other purposes.” From The Hill:

Supporters of the bipartisan bill, H.R. 592, said federal aid to houses of worship is not a violation of the Constitution when that aid is meant to be used broadly for a range of affected entities. In those cases, federal aid need not be withheld from houses of worship that are, like many others, seeking to repair their buildings from storm damage.

"There is no intrinsically religious purpose in providing disaster assistance," said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), a supporter of the bill.

Read more HERE.

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Episcopal Bishop Schori Addresses Senate Committee on Gun Violence

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, submitted written testimony today to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on gun violence, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. The subcommittees is accepting “Proposals to reduce gun violence: protecting our communities while respecting the Second Amendment." Established after the Newtown massacre and in the wake of President Obama's leadership on reducing gun violence, the subcomittee is recieving statements from a number of religious leaders.
Bishop Schori says:
"I urge lawmakers to press for comprehensive and universal background checks for firearm ownership, regardless of where and how a gun is purchased; for bans on the availability to civilians of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines; and for policies designed to better regulate the manufacture of guns,” the Presiding Bishop states in her testimony. “The Episcopal Church also supports the highest level of accountability for violation of all existing laws pertaining to violence in our midst.”
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Pope Benedict XVI Announces Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI announced today he will step down on Feb. 28, citing his advanced age. The head of the Catholic Church is 85 years old. Below is the text of his announcement.

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

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How Abortion Became An Evangelical Issue

Evangelicals haven't always been part of the pro-life coalition. Prior to Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution supporting abortion in certain circumstances. After Roe allowed any abortion for any reason, evangelicals began to change their stance and with Catholics formed the pro-life coalition we know today. The Washington Post reports:

The reality of abortion on demand and exposure to the logic of the abortion rights movement led to a fundamental shift in the evangelical conscience. By 1976 the Southern Baptist Convention would declare every abortion to be a “decision to terminate the life of an innocent human being.” Similarly, the large evangelical movement would develop an overwhelming pro-life consensus, seeing abortion as a great moral evil and a threat to the dignity of all human life.

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In 113th Congress: First Hindu, first Buddhist in Senate, and (maybe) first ‘none’

The 113th Congress is the most diverse in U.S. history. New members include the first Hindu, first Buddhist, and the first "none." The Washington Post reports:

The new, 113th Congress includes the first Buddhist to serve in the Senate, the first Hindu to serve in either chamber and the first member of Congress to describe her religion as “none,” continuing a gradual increase in religious diversity that mirrors trends in the country as a whole. While Congress remains majority Protestant, the institution is far less so today than it was 50 years ago, when nearly three-quarters of the members belonged to Protestant denominations.

Read more here.

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