Female tsunami survivors face tough times

Plus, preparing for the NCAA women's championship, mammogram controversy and more.

Published April 4, 2007 1:13AM (EDT)

Asia News: A recent report has found that post-tsunami conditions in South Asia are hitting female survivors hardest. According to the Alliance of Women Affected by Tsunami, poor security at the camps in which many survivors still live leaves women vulnerable to assault, often by their husbands, and the fact that aid money is distributed primarily to male heads of households leaves women with fewer financial options. As a result, sex trade is on the rise in devastated coastal areas, and some women have even resorted to selling their kidneys for cash. The group hopes to raise these issues at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, which kicks off this week in New Delhi.

Associated Press: John Billings, who, with the help of his wife, Evelyn, came up with the natural-contraceptive Billings ovulation method back in the '50s, died this week at a retirement home in Melbourne, Australia. As contraceptive methods go, the Billings method has one up on the rhythm method, because Billings taught women to examine their cervical mucus rather than relying on the dates of their menstrual cycles. The method was a big hit with the Vatican; Billings received a papal knighthood, according to the AP. However, the method did get knocked for its high failure rate. And, come to think of it, the name of Billings' organization doesn't exactly scream pregnancy prevention -- it's World Organization Ovulation Method Billings International, or WOOMB.

AP, again: A band of Raging Grannies -- a sister group of the Granny Peace Brigade -- went to court today for a hearing on charges of trespassing at a Massachusetts Army recruiting center. They got off without being fined. One participant, 77-year-old Ann Wilson, said, "It's hard to know what to do next. There's always tax resistance."

New York Times: As a setup to tonight's NCAA women's championship game between Rutgers and Tennessee, the Sports section has an entertaining profile of Rutgers shooting guard Epiphanny Prince and Tennessee point guard Shannon Bobbitt, who played on the same high school team. It's an enjoyable read, but the piece goes out of its way to note that female hoops stars talk tough on the court and make career decisions based on strategy rather than friendship -- which kinda seem like no-duh points to make at this stage in the game. But the women's tournament is struggling to build its audience -- NCAA president Myles Brand is reportedly mulling holding the women's Final Four a week later next year, to help get the women's competition out of the shadow of the men's games. And the appeal of women's ball eludes even many diehard basketball fans; NPR commentator Richard Purcell recently acknowledged his bias against women's hoops (even going to far as to wonder why a young boy would want a female basketball player's autograph). Considering these factors, presenting women's basketball stars as straight-up athletes may still be an important task.

New York Post: Some may say kids these days have too many gadgets, but in this latest installment of Hollaback NYC-style crime fighting, it seems one can never have enough. When a thief snatched 18-year-old Shannon Wolcott's Sidekick she took his picture with her backup cellphone. Good thinking! The guy is still at large, but police are circulating the photo.

Reuters: The American College of Physicians has issued new guidelines questioning the benefits of regular mammograms for women under 50, noting that the downsides of mammography -- like false positives, radiation exposure and pain -- may not be worth it for younger women, whose risk of developing breast cancer varies widely. Instead of starting annual mammograms for everybody at age 40, the physicians group recommends that women under 50 make mammogram decisions after consultation with their doctors. But the American Cancer Society disagrees, calling the guidelines "a step back"; director of cancer screening Robert Smith told Reuters, "It would be a major public health setback if these new guidelines caused some women and their doctors to conclude that screening can safely be postponed."

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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