Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin

  • Some Afghan women resort to self-immolation


    Some Afghan women are resorting to fiery suicides to escape what are often powerless and bleak lives, the New York Times reports in a dispatch from the region.

    One hospital in central Afghanistan saw a spike in the number of women brought to the center with body-enveloping burns in October, according to the Times. The nation's Ministry of Women's Affairs documented 103 cases of women who set themselves on fire between March 2009 and March 2010--and the reported number is probably a fraction of the total cases, according to a July Time story on the problem.

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  • Is repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ dead?

    AP101101022693The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler declared the Democrats' long-promised repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service "all but lost" on Monday. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona is in talks with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to strip the repeal from the must-pass defense reauthorization bill, Meckler reports.

    Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole tells The Upshot that his organization still thinks repeal is possible. Democratic senators will be making a mistake if they don't push for repeal, he says, since most Americans think gay people should be allowed to serve openly in the military.

    "Removing 'don't ask, don't tell' is in fact not as controversial as some may claim," Cole said. "We firmly believe that there are enough votes to preserve the repeal language that's in the bill -- except a small group of senators has been afraid to even bring the bill up to a debate because they don't want to have a conversation about repeal.

    "It would be a mistake to bow to the whims of a small group of senators."

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  • Michigan, colleges ban Four Loko

    AP100913149207The state of Michigan has officially banned Four Loko, the highly caffeinated alcoholic beverage that's gotten a whole lot of bad press this fall. In a series of incidents, numerous college kids ended up hospitalized around the country after apparently ingesting copious amounts of the multi-stimulating beverage.

    The Michigan ban states that all alcoholic energy drinks "pose serious health and safety risks to American youth" and must be taken off the shelves within 30 days.

    But is Four Loko really that bad?

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  • Is there really a creeping Sharia threat?

    AP101029016231A Muslim civil rights activist is suing the state of Oklahoma over its new voter-approved measure banning Islamic law, also known as Sharia, and international law from the state's courts.

    Muneer Awad, director of the state's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), charges that the law violates the First Amendment's ban on the government establishing religion. Awad also argues that the law stigmatizes Muslims by singling out Islam for the ban and no other religion, and that the perceived threat of Sharia overtaking state law does not actually exist.

    One law professor told CNN the law is a "mess" that will cause a confusing tangle in the courts.

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  • PARTING SHOTS: Chilean miner running NYC marathon, Chris Christie’s 2012 denial

    Here's our roster of stories that managed to avoid the full-on blog treatment:

    • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a Sherman-esque denial of his intention to run for president in 2012. "Short of suicide, I don't really know what I'd have to do to convince you people that I'm not running," he told reporters. (Politico)

    • One of the rescued Chilean miners has arrived in New York to run the marathon, shaming couch potatoes everywhere. (AP)

    • Though some economists criticized the Fed for buying billions in U.S. debt, stocks surged to a two-year record today. (WSJ)

    • Europe's air-safety watchdog warned airlines in August -- months ahead of yesterday's Qantas Airlines scare -- that engines on Airbus planes have problems. (The Guardian)

    • New high-risk health insurance pools aren't attracting enough people. (New York Times)

    • A federal appeals court has halted the trial of the suspected kidnapper in the Elizabeth Smart case, as the court reviews the defense's argument that he can't get a

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  • Incoming House education chair: Vow to abolish Education Department just a ‘talking point’

    AP100129032239Even as he rued an Election Day "shellacking," President Obama seemed hopeful in his post-midterms press conference yesterday that Democrats and Republicans may find common ground on education legislation, if not much else. The Washington Post's Nick Anderson examined that wish in a story today, focusing on the handful of newly elected Republican candidates who ran on a pledge to abolish the Department of Education -- a position that doesn't exactly bode well for interparty cooperation on the issue.

    Soon-to-be Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Mike Lee of Utah have supported initiatives in the past to abolish the DOE or stated their support for the department's abolition. At least 15 new House members have as well.

    But GOP Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, the soon-to-be-ranking member of the House's education and labor committee, dismissed talk that the new Congress will make it a priority to dismantle the Education Department.

    "In some ways, that's sort of a talking point," Kline told Anderson. "There will be those who campaigned on that language. I'm not sure they always know what it means."

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  • Nicest Canadian couple in world dole out lottery winnings

    Lottery winners Allen and Violet LargeA retired Canadian couple who won $11.3 million in the lottery in July have already given it (almost) all away.

    "What you've never had, you never miss," 78-year-old Violet Large explained to a local reporter.

    She was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer when the couple realized they'd won the jackpot in July.

    "That money that we won was nothing," her tearful husband, Allen, told Patricia Brooks Arenburg of the Nova Scotia Chronicle Herald. "We have each other."

    [Rewind: Lottery winner hits jackpot...four times]

    The money was a "headache," they told the paper--mainly, it brought anxiety over the prospect that "crooked people" might take advantage of them. Several people called them out of the blue to ask for money when the news first broke that they'd won the jackpot. So they began an $11 million donation spree to get rid of it and help others, the Chronicle Herald reports:

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  • Exit poll: Nearly a third of gays voted for GOP

    AP101022032359Exit polling commissioned by the major cable news networks has found that 31 percent of people who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual voted for Republicans on Election Day. That represents a big uptick from the 24 percent of gays who voted for the GOP in 2006 and from only 19 percent who did so in 2008. The trend appears to bear out pre-Election Day predictions from gay rights organizers that gay voters were angry and disenchanted with Democrats for not delivering on promises to the community.

    It's not clear how widespread the trend is. Hunter College Professor Ken Sherrill, who studies the gay electorate, tells The Upshot that the sample size was small, so the magnitude of gays' shift toward the GOP may be less pronounced than it appears. (About 110 respondents of the 3,800 included in the cable exit polls identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, representing about 3 percent of all voters.)

    He also thinks the shift is more related to the economic downturn than to dissatisfaction with the pace of gay-rights legislation, since there was no reason for voters to believe GOP candidates would be more amenable than Democrats to LGBT issues such as gay marriage or ending the military ban on openly gay service.

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  • Iowa gay-marriage firings a ‘warning’ to judges

    AP101025020724Yesterday, voters in Iowa kicked out three Supreme Court judges who decided to allow gay marriage in the state in 2009. The vote marked the first time the state had used its retention system to remove judges since the procedure was instituted in 1962.

    The New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage (NOM) shelled out $600,000 for an ad campaign and extensive bus tour through the state to convince voters to boot the judges. Other out-of-state anti-gay-marriage organizations spent an additional $400,000 on the campaign.

    The votes are meant to send "a powerful message to any judge who thinks they can impose gay marriage by judicial fiat against the wishes of the people," NOM President Brian Brown said in a statement.

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  • Voters reject pot legalization, alien-monitoring panel


    Voters dealt blows to the anti-extraterrestrial lobby and to pro-marijuana factions Tuesday in a series of offbeat ballot initiatives around the country. Here's our list:


    Aliens are free to fly over Denver undisturbed. City voters turned down an initiative to create a space-alien-monitoring commission and to let residents post sightings on the city's website.

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