What else we've been reading

Health news, abortion-access updates and much, much more as we catch up from our holiday break.

By Tracy Clark-Flory - Page Rockwell
Published January 6, 2007 1:52AM (EST)

London Times: Apparently around one in 10 male sheep prefer to mount other rams than mate with ewes; now, a group of American researchers has been experimenting with adjusting same-sex-oriented rams' hormone levels to make them more interested in ewes. The researchers say they're investigating the factors that shape sexual orientation; critics say the research could be used as a template for "correcting" homosexuality in humans.

BBC: Suffolk county police have charged a local forklift driver with the recent murders of five women who'd been working as prostitutes in the area. Reuters has a little more background, here.

ABC News: The accuser in the Duke lacrosse team case has given birth; there will be a court-ordered paternity test, but everyone seems to agree that none of the accused players is the father. In other news, the university recently invited two of the three accused players, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, back to school and back onto the lacrosse team; attorneys say the two haven't yet decided whether to return to Duke. (The third accused player, Dave Evans, graduated before being charged in the case.) Also recently, lawyers from the North Carolina State Bar Association filed a complaint against Durham district attorney Mike Nifong, holding that many press interviews Nifong gave, in which he bragged about the guilt of the accused players, constitute improper commentary. Lastly, a clarification: Shortly before Broadsheet broke for the holidays, we relayed that the Associated Press was reporting that the rape charges in the case had been dropped, because the accuser couldn't remember whether she'd been penetrated during the alleged attack. However, as several readers noted, other media reports clarified that the accuser couldn't remember whether she was penetrated by a penis, which is a condition of rape charges in North Carolina.

Kaiser Network: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that all expectant mothers be offered screening for Downs Syndrome in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Associated Press: A 67-year-old woman in Barcelona recently had twin sons, making her the oldest woman on record to give birth.

Associated Press, again: Hurricane Katrina embryo rescue! During the disaster, New Orleans police retrieved frozen embryos from a flooded hospital, and a local woman was able to have one of the rescued embryos implanted. Mom-to-be Rebekah Markham is set to give birth on Jan. 16th.

Associated Press, yet again: Cut out the low-carb nonsense! Folate levels in young American women are on the decline, which could raise rates of birth defects. If you're interested in pre-pregnancy care, doctors suggest taking folic acid vitamins and supplements, as well as eating breads and cereals.

One last one from the AP: Incoming United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has selected Tanzanian foreign minister Asha-Rose Migiro to be deputy secretary-general. Migiro was the first woman ever to be foreign minister of Tanzania, and will be the second woman to hold the post of deputy secretary-general.

Reuters: Germany is tackling the much-discussed western European population crisis by offering subsidies to parents who take time off to care for their children. Because the benefit only applies to babies born on or after the first of the year, the wire service quotes several moms on how they delayed labor until 2007, and others who are annoyed to have missed the opportunity for government money.

McClatchy Newspapers: In the last days of his term, outgoing Kansas attorney general Phill Kline has continued his witch hunt against abortion provider George Tiller, going so far as to appoint antiabortion activist Donald McKinney as an independent prosecutor in the matter, with the idea that McKinney would continue the investigation after Kline leaves office next week. Fortunately, incoming AG Paul Morrison has said he won't retain McKinney in the case.

Feminist Newswire: The African nation Togo has expanded abortion rights to allow women to terminate pregnancies in case of rape, incest or when the fetus is at risk of a serious medical condition. (Previously, exceptions were only made for the life or health of the mother.)

The New Republic: Cause for hope -- Bradford Plumer suggests that while the new Democrat-heavy Congress may not do much to protect abortion access domestically, there may be some flexibility on the global gag rule, which prevents U.S. funds from supporting non-governmental organizations accused of providing or advocating abortion.

Feministing is great for alerting us to the news that women's rights activist, lawyer and blogger Mehrnoush Najafi won a city council election in Hamedan, Iran -- and female candidates did well in city council elections across the country, coming in first or second place in 12 out of 30 cities.

Gizmodo, meanwhile, sucks for posting this lame list of the 10 hottest "blogger babes" of 2006. Blech.

Christian Science Monitor: The Nepalese practice of worshipping children as goddesses is under fire for potential human rights abuses. The girls, some of whom are as young as four when they're selected to serve as incarnations of the Hindu goddess Taleju, see their families only a few times per year and generally don't receive formal education.

New York Times: A smart parenting editorial mulls the explosion of overly sexy and/or princess-related merchandise for young girls, and debates "the line between frivolous fun and JonBenit."

New York Times, again: On Thursday, her first day as director general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret F. C. Chan announced that one of her key aims is to improve the health of women worldwide. They may be vulnerable to the health risks of childbirth, but women are a key force in improving healthcare, Chan said. Women do much more than have babies, she said.

New York Times, lastly: A Business section feature recasts parenting responsibilities as job skills, making the argument that household management experience should translate to the workplace. We wish more employers felt this way.

Los Angeles Times: On the flip side, the LAT recently ran a feature on why divorces and lost earning time due to child- and elder care frequently puts women in precarious financial positions. To their further credit, the paper acknowledged that this problem, while important, is far from new.

Washington Post: Expect to feel even more fed-up with the Iraq war after reading this lengthy feature on the unique childbirth risks facing women in the country. They often have to navigate "road closures, curfews and gun battles" to even get to the hospital. But once there, they face a critical shortage of "equipment, drugs and medical expertise." The article profiles 20-year-old Ibrahim, whose baby was killed when nurses crushed his head with forceps.

Core Performance: "Running is not good for most females," says Michael Boyle. His argument: Most elite female runners look like men, because "normal" women have wider hips and narrow knees that would result in serious injury in the sport. But, he says, cheer up -- there's still spin class or the stairclimber!

Bloomberg: Breast cancer drug Herceptin can extend the lives of chemotherapy patients, a study found. More good news: the study's findings might result in better insurance coverage for the drug.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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