TV & Radio
Bush moves to reassure conservatives on his court choice
By David Stout The New York Times
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2005
WASHINGTON President George W. Bush sought again Wednesday to reassure conservatives about his Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, and he said that Miers's religion was pertinent to the overall discussion about her.
"People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers," Bush said.
"They want to know Harriet Miers's background," the president added. "They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions."
"Part of Harriet Miers's life is her religion," Bush went on, in remarks that may be revived during Miers's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee several weeks from now.
"Part of it has to do with the fact that she was a pioneer woman and a trailblazer in the law in Texas."
The president went on to say, in a brief question-answer session with reporters at the White House, that Miers was "eminently qualified" to sit on the court, and that she would be a justice who "will not legislate from the bench but strictly interpret the Constitution."
Bush's allusion to Miers came shortly after the conservative James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said on a radio broadcast that he had discussed the nominee's religious views with the president's chief political adviser, Karl Rove.
Dobson said he talked to Rove on Oct. 1, two days before Bush announced his choice, and had been told that "Harriet Miers is an evangelical Christian, that she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life, that she has taken on the American Bar Association on the issue of abortion and fought for a policy that would not be supportive of abortion, that she had been a member of the Texas Right to Life."
Dobson went on to say that he and Rove had not discussed cases that might come before the court and that "we did not discuss Roe v. Wade in any context."
The Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade established a woman's right to have an abortion.
A leading Democrat expressed unease over Dobson's remarks.
"The rest of America, including the Senate, deserves to know what he and the White House know," said Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking minority member on the Judiciary Committee.
"We don't confirm justices of the Supreme Court on a wink and a nod. And a litmus test is no less a litmus test by using whispers and signals."
Bush has said that he has no "litmus test" for judicial nominees, and that he has not discussed the Roe v. Wade decision with Miers.
The Miers nomination has been greeted with wariness, even near hostility, by some conservatives Republicans, who have expressed doubts that Miers is really one of their own.
The nominee has never been a judge and so has left no "paper trail" of opinions to dissect.
Critics on the right have also complained that Miers has given no sign that she has studied or even pondered the sort of constitutional issues that define the modern conservative-liberal divide, and that the White House bypassed conservative legal scholars and justices who had done so in favor of a presidential aide whose chief qualification appeared to be her proximity and loyalty to Bush.
Conservative Christians initially resisted discussion of religion when Judge John Roberts Jr., a Roman Catholic, was nominated for the Supreme Court.
"We are going to be vigilant to make sure that there is not this religious litmus test imposed," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an evangelical Protestant group, said in August.
Roberts told the Judiciary Committee that his private beliefs would not affect how he rules on matters of law.
He was endorsed by the committee and confirmed overwhelmingly by the Senate as chief justice of the United States.
The Christian Science Monitor
Commentary > Opinion
from the October 14, 2005 edition
Promote Iraqi women's rights within an Islamic framework
By Isobel Coleman and Mehlaqa Samdani
WASHINGTON – Whether or not the Iraqi constitution passes on Oct. 15, one thing is clear: Iraq will continue to be dominated by religiously motivated, well-organized Shiite political parties, determined to implement Islamic law and enforce social conservatism throughout society.
In this environment, it is inevitable that many rights taken for granted by Iraqi women will come under increasing challenge. Advocates pushing a secular agenda risk marginalization, or worse. Instead, those promoting women's rights may be better served if they adopt a language of rights within an Islamic framework - a strategy that could prove to be both more legitimate and effective within Iraq's religiously charged context.
The good news for Iraqi women is that they have one of the highest levels of political representation in the world (31 percent), driven by a constitutionally mandated quota introduced in 2004. The bad news is that Iraq's female parliamentarians are as deeply divided as society as a whole. The gap between religious conservatives and secular women seems unbridgeable. Yet, despite ideological differences they do share many issues of concern, including furthering women's political participation, economic empowerment, and education.
In Iran, following the Islamic revolution in 1979, women saw dramatic setbacks in their legal rights. Secular efforts to claw back those rights largely failed, but religious feminist leaders emerged in the 1990s to advance theological justifications for legal improvements for women. This broader women's movement has achieved some gains over time, particularly in the sensitive area of family law.
Iraqi women should learn from the Iranian example and build coalitions across the ideological spectrum and promote more progressive Islamic jurisprudence. One way to do this is to set up dialogue groups between Shiite and Sunni women to discuss various interpretations of the sharia (Islamic law) governing personal status laws. Religious scholars and international Islamic groups, such as Sisters in Islam, can be invited to join and inform the discussions. These can be modeled around the Islamic circles, or halaqat, initiated by Egyptian women in the 1990s, where women gather in their communities to discuss religion.
Various perspectives and interpretations of women's rights under the sharia should be discussed and widely disseminated through media networks and channels, such as Radio Mahaba (an Iraqi station dedicated to raising awareness on women's rights), and women-oriented publications similar to the influential feminist press in Iran.
For its part, the US can support women in Iraq in ways that are effective yet culturally nonthreatening. Over the past two years, the US has allocated funds for the political education of women. Some of this money has already been used for voter education and leadership training for electoral candidates. Once the constitution is approved, the US government should work with local groups to educate women on various provisions of the constitution. A recent Freedom House report assessing women's rights in 17 Arab countries found that all except Saudi Arabia have constitutions that mandate equality between men and women. However, little effort is made to inform women of the laws that protect them in their own constitution.
The US should also back its female-friendly rhetoric with targeted funding. The coming year will be crucial for Iraqi women, as a new parliament is elected with the power to write the laws that will shape the country for the next generation. Women's groups and programs designed to build the capacity of women leaders should be given high priority in US government funding allocations, specifically in the area of rule of law. The USAID-supported legal education program at the University of Baghdad, where women make up 40 percent of participants in recent rule-of-law seminars, should be expanded to other universities and cities across Iraq. Private Muslim-American groups should consider funding a women's religious studies department at Baghdad University, where the next generation of female muftis or jurists can be developed. Just as female graduates of the Islamic studies program at Al-Azhar in Cairo are now issuing fatwas (religious edicts) about issues pertaining to daily life in accordance with sharia, Iraqi women should be given the opportunity to achieve religious authority.
Over the next few years, as Iraq takes its first steps toward becoming an Islamic democracy, the role women play in the emerging political, social, and economic order will directly determine the sustainability of Iraq's transition. If America truly wants to help bring freedom to the women of Iraq, it should provide both secular and religious advocates of women's rights with the platform and the resources they need.
• Isobel Coleman is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of its US Foreign Policy and Women program. Mehlaqa Samdani is a CFR research associate.
Iraqi Women See Little but Darkness - Washington Post
The New York Times
By JOHN JAY
Published: October 16, 2005
THE valley girl is alive and well - in Japan.Lookism may reign in American high schools, but Japanese girls have a new way to assess relative coolness: call it "soundism." Tired of the Tokyo mode of speech, they mix words and accents to affect their own suburban vernacular. Japanese fashion magazines quick to pick up on street trends are publishing photos with speech bubbles above the girls' heads. Commonly used words include "messa" ("very") and "jan" ("for sure"), but the test of skill comes in the combination of words and dialects. The obsessive Manba girls of Shibuya, known for ultradark tans, garish makeup and bleach-blond hair, take it one step farther: many practice their language through another pop-culture tradition, karaoke. Messa cute.
The Financial Times
World / Asia-Pacific
Court backs Japanese database
By Mariko Sanchanta
Published: October 15 2005 03:00 | Last updated: October 15 2005 03:00
A district court yesterday ruled that Juki Net, a controversial national database that contains information about Japanese citizens, is legal and does not violate privacy rights.
The Fukuoka court ruling is a blow to those protesting against the network and demanding their details be removed from it.
Launched in 2002, Juki Net provoked a national uproar.
The national database keeps records of the name, sex, date of birth and place of residence of every Japanese citizen, each of whom is assigned an 11-digit code. The information is shared among central and local governments.
Mariko Sanchanta, Tokyo
Photo Credit: By Atef Hassan -- Reuters
Iraqi Women See Little but Darkness
Advocates Skeptical That Approval of Constitution Would Improve Their Lives
By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, October 15, 2005; A14
BAGHDAD -- Three school years' worth of unbaked clay pieces have piled up in Hanna Milla's darkened office at Iraq's National Museum of Modern Art: rounded vases, stern masks, a lumpy hawk on its post, all shaped by the hands of young students and smoothed by Milla's coral-tipped fingers. And all waiting to be fired in kilns that have sat without reliable electricity for two years.
Teachers in the museum's warren of classrooms and halls last ran the kilns in January 2003, as students and instructors prepared for what would be their last exhibition as war closed in.
At the exhibition that night, the instructors -- almost all female -- mingled with students and artists, sipped drinks and eyed the displays. For the women, it would be the last late evening for years.
"We stayed . . . until 1 or 2 in the morning," Milla recalled, sounding the nostalgic note heard often now in Iraq.
The art, and the women, have receded to the dark corners. As with women in all wars, those in Iraq have been forced to yield the center to men waving guns. Saturday's vote on a constitution will not improve their lives, Milla and her colleagues say; at this point, they cannot imagine anything that would. They just hope it won't make their existences any worse.
As the constitution was being drafted by rival factions battling for control of Iraq and its future, women, who make up more than 50 percent of the population, were never treated as more than a side issue. None was involved in the backroom dealing. They had to rely on male leaders with other issues on their minds to plead their case.
President Bush has said women's rights is one of the reasons Americans are fighting in Iraq. A Western official in Baghdad said Friday that the proposed constitution was "a good constitution for women, and very frankly that's something we were very insistent upon."
The draft going before voters Saturday specifies equality regardless of a person's sex and aspires to reserve 25 percent of the seats in the National Assembly for women.
But it also gives each Iraqi household the option of using religious law to decide matters of inheritance, divorce, alimony and other family issues. Rights advocates have said they fear women will be coerced by male relatives into accepting the least favorable interpretations of religious law -- forbidding divorce without a husband's permission, for example, or cutting a daughter's inheritance compared with a son's.
The constitution also sets aside seats for Muslim clerics on the Supreme Court, which will weigh the constitutionality of all laws. In a country where an Iranian-influenced Shiite religious party holds the balance of power, that alarms proponents of women's rights.
"They call this constitution a tent, but they pulled Iraqi women out of this tent," said Zakiya Khalifa Zaidi, 73, a well-known actress who is now an activist.
"The constitution was written in a very tense atmosphere," Zaidi said. "That's why we lost many of our rights amid the chaos."
"Women lost ground in the constitution," agreed Hajim M. Hasani, the speaker of the National Assembly.
Hasani held out hope that ground could be made up if moderate Sunni Arabs, and secular politicians in general, won more seats in the new parliament to be elected in December and were able to counter the fundamentalist tilt of post-invasion Iraq.
Shiite marshals roam the southern city of Basra, chastising women for showing a bare arm or calf and beating them for picnicking with male friends. Female lawmakers from the governing Shiite religious parties talk with relish of establishing a husband's right to beat wives -- albeit subject to regulation. Female officials speak with approval of a woman in the southern city of Najaf who was denied a judgeship because of her sex.
Milla says she has seen more and more colleagues retreat under head scarves, saying they fear becoming targets of the fundamentalism, linked to anti-American sentiment, that has been growing since the war.
She has resisted wearing a scarf, or hijab , however, and covers her head only when she goes into a conservative neighborhood. "I feel inside myself that my belief, my heart, is stronger than hijab," she said.
Born in 1952, Milla was a teenager at a time when women in Baghdad and other Muslim capitals, including Kabul and Tehran, wore miniskirts and let their pageboys and flip haircuts lift in the breeze. She graduated from Baghdad's Fine Arts Institute and traveled freely to Russia, Jordan, Egypt and France.
In the 1990s, after the Persian Gulf War, fundamentalism closed in on women as sanctions did on President Saddam Hussein. The government instituted a rule that no woman could travel outside the country without a male relative. Hussein's pride had been stung, Iraqis said, by rumors that the women of Iraq, freer than most of their counterparts in the Arab world, were going abroad to prostitute themselves.
Until the spring of 2003, Milla could still move about freely in Iraq. "It was, my God, wonderful," Milla said, sitting in her dark office at a metal desk and chair, furnishings scrounged from the wreckage left by looters. "I used to go out. I used to shop."
When the Americans came, security collapsed. Crime and war shut the door on women.
Milla and the other women in her department are now driven to and from work by male chauffeurs. Milla seldom leaves the house otherwise. She and her colleagues once taught six classes of 30 students each. Today there are 15 students in the whole school. The rest have fled the country or holed up in their homes. Some sent word they would miss this school year but would come after the referendum, hoping for a downturn in violence, Milla said.
One day last week, a handful of young female students in head scarves risked their lives to venture out for art's sake. They worked alongside young men in Milla's drab classroom, smiling, talking and scrutinizing their sculptures.
Milla's own daughters are among the legions of unseen women. Her 25-year-old, a literature graduate, and 29-year-old, who holds a bachelor's degree in science, gave up searching for jobs amid the violence. One donned a head scarf at the request of her husband; the other, like Milla, wears one only when necessary.
"They have become prisoners of their own home," she said.
Was her own life better than those of her daughters? "Of course," she said.
Women "used to complain in Saddam's times," said Milla's colleague, Atika Muhanned Sayeed. "Now, after complaining, they got worse."
Neither woman has seen a copy of the draft constitution. The many amendments, made up to 72 hours before the vote, left them uncertain about just what it held for women, or what it said at all.
The dealmaking also left them deeply skeptical that political leaders would feel bound by the charter. Neither woman plans to vote on Saturday. "It's all just speeches," Sayeed said. "Just words."
Sayeed is nevertheless confident, she said, that Iraqi women need not fear the worst -- a religious government that would force them into full veils and a housebound existence. "This isn't Iran," Sayeed said.
Milla shifted forward on her uncomfortable metal chair but said nothing.
Special correspondent Omar Fekeiki contributed to this report.
大きな歯車のはざまで、自己と教育、女性記者が回顧――藤原房子著（読書） (日本経済 2005/10/16朝刊)
ニュースに迫る 同性愛公表 戸惑い・声援
尾辻かな子・大阪府議が著書出版 (朝日 2005/10/16朝刊)