Tuesday, December 14 Nine Circles of Hell!

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The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – for Tuesday, December 14, plus three bonus story on the Berlusconi victory, and three extra links on Wikileaks, are:

Rome’s streets explode after Berlusconi wins

Holbrooke says, “you’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan”, dies

Petraeus Doctrine increases violence in Afghanistan

Wikileaks reopens case of cameraman killed in Baghdad

Corrupt, critical road cuts through ancient Russian oak forest

Japanese military shifts focus from Russia to China

Bee-toxic pesticide “jeopardizes a third of American agriculture”

America’s domestic violence laws can shock immigrants

Maybe there is no “post-abortion syndrome”

Rome’s streets explode after Berlusconi wins
Reuters
(12/14/10)

Violence erupts in Rome after Berlusconi wins vote

Protesters set fire to cars, threw paint and smoke bombs at the Italian parliament and clashed with riot police on Tuesday in Rome’s worst violence for years after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi survived a confidence vote.

Via del Corso, the main street stretching through the historic center, near Berlusconi’s office and home to some of the capital’s smartest shops, was a battle scene of smoke, teargas and bloodied faces.

Smoke rose from the Pincio Hill above the famed Spanish Steps as protesters set fire to private cars, overturned heavy trash bins and prevented fire crews from putting out the flames.

At least 50 people were injured, including several policemen, and more than 40 protesters were detained, police said. The protesters were mostly students but also included workers and immigrants.

Television pictures showed dozens of people throwing stones at police, with officers in riot gear beating the protesters back and chasing them along narrow cobblestoned alleyways.

“While they are doing their little game in parliament, we are heading toward catastrophe. Where is my future? I don’t feel represented by this government, I don’t feel represented in my own country,” said 19-year old Marco, a university student.

The protesters had been hoping that Berlusconi would fall and had wanted to stage a victory demonstration. But he survived the no-confidence motion in parliament by a mere three votes. He would have had to resign if he had lost.

Shops were forced to close as protesters, many of them wearing ski masks, overturned tables of sidewalk restaurants, flower vases and parked motorcycles.

The protesters smashed bank windows, destroyed several cash machines and threw chairs and tables at police vehicles.

In the past several weeks, students have been protesting throughout Italy against austerity measures and university reforms planned by the center-right government, matching similar demonstrations in other countries, including Britain.

Students also blocked Palermo airport in Sicily and briefly occupied the stock market building in Milan.

“They haven’t done anything. For universities nothing has been done and we are in a situation which is getting worse every day,” said university student Valerio Zampani.

  • The Los Angeles Times’ “Italy’s Prime Minister Berlusconi survives no-confidence vote” explains why, this time, the protests were particularly intense:
    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi squeaked through a vote of no confidence in his government Tuesday, surviving one of the toughest tests of his leadership but emerging with his power severely weakened.
    The media magnate, who has led Italy for most of the last decade, secured the barest of majorities in a vote marred by scuffles in the lower house of Parliament. Lawmakers voted 314-311 in favor of the government.
    Earlier, the Italian Senate gave a thumbs-up to Berlusconi by a comfortable margin.
    That was expected, because Berlusconi’s center-right coalition commands a safe majority in the upper chamber. But in the lower house, the outcome was in doubt until almost the last minute after days of political horse-trading and even scrutiny of the health of three pregnant lawmakers, who had vowed to vote against Berlusconi but were at risk of going into labor at any moment …
    The no-confidence motion was put forward by opponents who argued that Berlusconi’s scandal-ridden private life, his alleged attempts to head off investigations into his business dealings and the lackluster state of the economy made his continued tenure as prime minister impossible.
    But the 74-year-old Berlusconi is one of the great escape artists of Italian politics. He defended his record in speeches before both houses of Parliament on Monday, and warned that jettisoning him now would be an act of madness at a time of extreme economic delicacy because of the crisis over the euro …
    There were accusations of vote-buying by the billionaire premier in the frantic negotiations leading up to Tuesday’s vote; authorities are now investigating.
    During the voting, fighting on the chamber floor broke out when one lawmaker who had been expected to vote against Berlusconi changed her mind and voted for him instead. When the result was announced, Berlusconi’s supporters erupted in cheers.
    Though he survived, Berlusconi finds himself much weakened. His popularity is at a low ebb, hurt by the constant stories of lavish parties full of beautiful young women — including some self-professed prostitutes — and by corruption probes into his business interests.
    He has also failed to deliver some of his promised reforms to make the Italian economy more productive and competitive.
  • CBS News offers some additional political insight in, “Rome Chaotic As Berlusconi Survives Vote”:
    Weakened by sex scandals and a bitter breakup with his one-time closest ally, Berlusconi seemed destined to be sent packing. The split with Gianfranco Fini had eroded the premier’s once comfortable parliamentary majority and left him vulnerable in the lower house.
    But Berlusconi battled back, as he has countless times when his political career seemed to be on the ropes. Tuesday’s drama confirmed his status as the ultimate political survivor — but he emerges from the battle severely weakened and one top opposition lawmaker called his success a “Pyrrhic victory” …
    Pressing his case before lawmakers on the eve of the showdown, the premier argued that his government had successfully worked to protect Italy from becoming engulfed in the eurozone’s debt crisis. He warned that political instability would hurt Italy as it fights for its economic future.
    Italy is plagued by a high public debt level and slow growth. The country is still widely viewed as low-risk due to the low level of private debt, a relatively sound banking system, and experience in dealing with high public debt levels. Still, markets were closely monitoring the results of the votes; Italy’s main bourse closed little changed on Tuesday.
    Berlusconi said after the vote that he would press ahead despite his uncertain majority in the lower house. “Even (President) Obama doesn’t have the majority in one of the chambers,” Berlusconi said.
    One of the biggest casualties of the vote was Fini — who had staked major political capital on toppling Berlusconi. Fini’s chances of replacing Berlusconi as conservative leader now appear slimmer, at least in the short term …
    Pierluigi Bersani, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, called the result a “Pyrrhic victory” for Berlusconi. And even Berlusconi ally Roberto Maroni, the interior minister, said new elections may be necessary unless the government secures a broader majority.
  • CNN’s “Violence erupts in Rome after Berlusconi survives confidence votes” gives some great video and this context:
    Forbes magazine ranked Berlusconi last year as the world’s 70th richest man, estimating his net worth at $6.5 billion. He amassed much of his wealth as a self-made media mogul, largely through the company Fininvest, and he also owns AC Milan, one of the world’s most famous soccer teams.
    He’s known political instability before, having served twice as prime minister (1994-95 and 2001-06) before his election in 2008. Yet, especially in recent years, the 74-year-old has been dogged by scandal and legal troubles, in addition to his political challenges.
    Those challenges include a bitter divorce from Veronica Lario, his wife of 19 years, after allegations that a businessman hired escorts for the prime minister and that Berlusconi attended a birthday party for an 18-year-old girl.
    Videos released this fall showed Berlusconi joking about the Holocaust and calling a female opposition politician “Pig God.” The Vatican’s official newspaper blasted the remarks, calling them “deplorable” and calling the jokes blasphemous, anti-Semitic and sexist.
    Shortly afterward, in October, Italian prosecutors expanded their tax fraud investigation into Berlusconi’s Mediaset company, the nation’s largest commercial broadcaster. The prime minister has dismissed the fraud charges as politically motivated.
    Beyond his personal travails, there are the stark political challenges. Foremost among them, Berlusconi faces a difficult economic picture as he looks ahead to the rest of his term, which expires in 2013.
    Italian unemployment is running at 8.5 percent, the highest level since 2003, according to the Italian statistical office, and public debt is 120 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the Bank of Italy says.

Holbrooke says, “you’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan”, dies
CBS News
(12/14/10)

Holbrooke’s Last Words: “You’ve Got to Stop this War in Afghanistan”

In his final words before emergency heart surgery, Richard Holbrooke, the influential U.S. diplomat who died on Monday following complications from the surgery, apparently urged an end to America’s nine-year old Afghanistan conflict.

“You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan,” Holbrooke told a doctor before entering into surgery, according to family members’ accounts reported by  Washington Post.

Later reports note that Holbrooke made the comments during “painful banter” leading up to his surgery — and that they were not necessarily “a serious exhortation about policy.”

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Tuesday that Holbrooke, prior to going into the operation, joked with an attending doctor about his “unrelenting” commitment to work, according to Fox News.

Upon being advised to relax, Holbrooke apparently told Dr. Jehan El-Bayoumi, an internist and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s physician, that he was too preoccupied with the war in Afghanistan to relax, the Washington Post reports. The Post says El-Bayoumi offered to worry in his place, at which point Holbrooke asked her to end the war for him, too.

Holbrooke, a 69-year-old foreign policy veteran who worked in Vietnam as a foreign service member during the war and advised four Democratic presidents, had been serving until his death as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Obama administration. Though Holbrooke is believed to have seen the war in Afghanistan as winnable, he allegedly struggled in his dealings with the Afghan government – particularly when it came to the country’s widespread corruption and lack of functional public services.

Petraeus Doctrine increases violence in Afghanistan
Wired
(12/14/10)

Afghan Ultraviolence: Petraeus Triples Air War

November is ordinarily the month when the air war in Afghanistan — and really, the whole American-led campaign — ratchets down for the winter. This November, with Gen. David Petraeus in charge of the war effort, things have been different. Radically different.

NATO fighter jets and attack planes launched their bombs and missiles on 850 separate missions this November. That’s three-and-a-half times the number of attack sorties they flew in November 2009.

It’s another sign of the bloody turn the Afghan conflict has taken since Petraeus took over. Petraeus unleashed special operations forces, who have killed or captured thousands of militants.

His generals relied on massive surface-to-surface missiles to clear the Taliban out of Kandahar, and ordered tanks to help crush opponents in Helmand province.

And then there’s the metastasizing air war.

In the last three months, NATO aircraft have fired their weapons on 2,550 sorties, according to U.S. Air Force statistics provided to Danger Room. During the same period last year, there were less than half the number of violent sorties — just 1,188.

But that was under a different general, who had a very different attitude about airstrikes — and about the utility of violent coercion in the Afghan campaign.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal famously corralled the use of air power as he tried to implement a counterinsurgency strategy that put winning the locals’ allegiance as the primary goal. Even troops under enemy attack found it tough to call in a strike from above. Better to expose U.S. forces to some danger than risk alienating the population.

In public, Petraeus and his generals said that there would be no major changes to the so-called “rules of engagement,” which govern the use of force. Strikes from the sky were still considered a “choice of last resort,” as Brig. Gen. Jack Briggs II told Danger Room in August.

NATO officials tried to explain the uptick in these air attacks and other “kinetic” events as a function of increased troop numbers, or of those soldiers pushing into previously uncontested territory.

But with each passing month under Petraeus’ leadership, the shift to a more violent strategy becomes more apparent. By November, one U.S. military official was boasting about America’s “awe, shock and firepower.”

Wikileaks reopens case of cameraman killed in Baghdad
The Christian Science Monitor
(12/13/10)

Relatives of Spanish cameraman killed in Baghdad use WikiLeaks to press for justice

José Couso of Telecinco, the Spanish cameraman, and Taras Protsyuk, a Ukranian cameraman working for Reuters, died April 8, 2003, when a shell fired by an M1 Abraham tank hit the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel, which scores of foreign journalist were using as a base and Pentagon-approved safe haven. Two other media locations were hit that day, also killing Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayyoub. Four others were injured, leading to broad condemnation and demands to protect reporters.

Couso’s family has been fighting an uphill battle as it presses for criminal charges against the US soldiers. The US and Spain are, after all, close allies, and the US has taken the position that its soldiers are not liable to foreign jurisdictions, particularly when carrying out their duties in war zones.

The case has been dismissed twice at the request of Spanish prosecutors, only to be reopened by the Spanish Supreme Court. Currently, the country’s National Court is awaiting Iraqi entry visas to investigate the involvement of a sergeant, a captain, and a colonel in the incident seven years ago.

According to the WikiLeaks documents posted by El País newspaper, former US ambassador in Madrid Eduardo Aguirre wrote in May 2007 that “while we are careful to show our respect for the tragic death of Couso and for the independence of the Spanish judicial system, behind the scenes we have fought tooth and nail to make the charges disappear.”

A month later, according to the documents, Mr. Aguirre told former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Spanish government “has been helpful behind the scenes in getting the case appealed.”

Then in July 2007 another confidential embassy report summarized a lunch meeting between Aguirre and Attorney General Conde-Pumpido in which the Spanish official “said that he continues to do what he can to get the case dismissed, despite public pressure from the family, leftist group, and the press,” according to Aguirre …

The latest complaint from the family, filed at the Attorney General’s office, asks that US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks be used as evidence that Spanish officials conspired to unduly influence prosecutors to dismiss the case. The accused include former Foreign Affairs Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, former Justice Minister Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Attorney General Cándido Conde-Pumpido, and National Court Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza …

“It’s certainly going to increase the pressure on the government to play it straight,” says (past This is Hell! guest Reed Brody), a Brussels-based lawyer for Human Rights Watch. “The implication that top Spanish officials did bidding for the US is very damaging and I think even without the lawsuit it may cause them to try to rectify [the situation].”

“Those of us who are pushing the Obama administration to undertake serious investigations were always hoping that Spanish cases would cause the US to act,” Mr. Brody says. “Nobody expects [former Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld in a court in Madrid, but it would be beneficial if these processes led to… answered questions at home.”

  • The Independent points reports that the US wants to change the rules to nab Assange … and fast … in, “US may pass new law to prosecute Assange”:
    Anger at Julian Assange continues to consume much of Washington this weekend, and a first formal hearing on Capitol Hill over options for prosecuting him could come as early as next week. Yet a claim made by one of the WikiLeaks founder’s lawyers, that the US was preparing to file charges against him “imminently”, was dismissed by an official at the Justice Department.
    That Washington would like to take legal action against him and as quickly as possible can hardly be in doubt. But building a case solid enough to allow Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, to seek Assange’s extradition from Britain, if that is where he still is at the time, or – possibly more problematically – from Sweden, may not be easy. The most obvious first stop might be the 1917 Espionage Act. But when the US government tried to use it to punish The New York Times for publishing the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, it failed.
    It is for that reason that some US politicians are introducing draft legislation to expand existing US laws to make it easier for Mr Holder to do his job. The so-called Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination (Shield) Bill was thus introduced by Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York who will become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when the new House of Representatives with a Republican majority convenes in January. The Bill would make it illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants.
    It essentially mirrors a similar piece of draft legislation introduced a few days earlier in the Senate by the trio of Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (an independent who votes normally with the Democrats) with Scott Brown and Susan Collins, both New England Republicans …
    The political pressure on the Obama administration to take action is immense – pressure being applied, in part, by Capitol Hill. “WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States, and Julian Assange, an enemy of the US, should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act,” Mr King said as he unveiled his draft Shield Bill. “This legislation will give the Attorney General additional tools to do just that.”
  • Reuters has the inside dope in, “Assange still committed to publishing secret documents: mother”:
    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told his mother from his prison cell in London that he remained committed to publishing secret U.S. cables, despite condemnation from Washington and elsewhere, Australian television reported Tuesday.
    Australia’s Network Seven asked Christine Assange to ask her 39-year-old son one question during a visit to his London jail: Was it worth it?
    “My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them,” said Assange, according to his mother who supplied the network with a written statement of her son’s answer.
    “If anything this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct” …
    “We now know that Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and others are instruments of U.S. foreign policy. It’s not something we knew before,” he said.
    “I am calling for the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral attacks” …
    Christine Assange told her son there was worldwide support for him.
    “I told him how people from all over the world, all sorts of countries were standing up with placards and screaming out for his freedom and justice and he was very heartened by that,” she said. “As a mother I am asking the world to stand up for my brave son.”
  • Meanwhile, there’s some good news for the Wikileaks founder, “Julian Assange: Readers’ Choice for TIME’s Person of the Year 2010”:
    The man behind WikiLeaks has won the most votes in this year’s Person of the Year poll.
    Readers voted a total of 1,249,425 times, and the favorite was clear. Julian Assange raked in 382,020 votes, giving him an easy first place. He was 148,383 votes over the silver medalist, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey.

Corrupt, critical road cuts through ancient Russian oak forest
The Associated Press
(12/14/10)

Forest to be felled for Moscow-St. Pete’s highway

The new Moscow-St.Petersburg highway will be built through an ancient forest outside the capital as planned, a top official confirmed Tuesday, despite environmentalists’ outrage over the issue.

The controversy over the Khimki oak forest is not just about irreplaceable trees. The fierce dispute has showcased Russia’s gravest social ill: the abuse of power and the dangers associated with trying to expose it.

Road construction is one of the most corrupt sectors of Russia’s economy, with numerous opportunities for kickbacks and bribes.

Environmentalists thought they had scored a rare victory when President Dmitry Medvedev in August ordered a halt to the highway construction after a broad protest movement that included rock stars rallying citizens in Moscow. Medvedev then called for a wide-ranging social dialogue on the issue.

But Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said the original plan was back in place because the highway is critically needed to alleviate Moscow’s chronic traffic congestion and the unbearable delays getting to the city’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Japanese military shifts focus from Russia to China
The New York Times
(12/12/10)

Japan Plans Military Shift to Focus More on China

In what would be a sweeping overhaul of its cold war-era defense strategy, Japan is about to release new military guidelines that would reduce its heavy armored and artillery forces pointed north toward Russia in favor of creating more mobile units that could respond to China’s growing presence near its southernmost islands, Japanese newspapers reported Sunday.

The realignment comes as the United States is making new calls for Japan to increase its military role in eastern Asia in response to recent provocations by North Korea as well as China’s more assertive stance in the region.

The new defense strategy, likely to be released this week, will call for greater integration of Japan’s armed forces with the United States military, the reports said. The reports did not give a source, but the fact that major newspapers carried the same information suggested they were based on a background briefing by government officials.

The new guidelines also call for acquiring new submarines and fighter jets, the reports said, and creating ground units that can be moved quickly by air in order to defend the southern islands, including disputed islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by China and Taiwan. These disputed islands are known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese.

Details of the realignment, which was delayed a year by the change of government in September 2009, have been leaking out since large joint military drills this month between Japan and the United States that included the American aircraft carrier George Washington.

Since initially clashing with the Obama administration over an American air base on Okinawa, Japan’s new Democratic Party government has been pulling closer to Washington, spurred by a bruising diplomatic clash three months ago with China over the disputed islands and fears about North Korea’s nuclear program.

Bee-toxic pesticide “jeopardizes a third of American agriculture”
Fast Company
(12/13/10)

Beekeeper Who Leaked EPA Documents: “I Don’t Think We Can Survive This Winter”

Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald never expected to become embroiled in a controversy between the EPA and the pesticide industry. But that’s exactly what happened when Theobald got hold of an EPA document revealing that the agency is allowing the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, in spite of warnings from EPA scientists.

So how did Theobald end up with such a contentious document?

Bayer, the corporation behind clothianidin (the pesticide in question), published a life cycle study about it in 2006 at the EPA’s request. The study was flawed–test and control fields were, for example, planted as close as 968 feet apart. But the EPA continued to allow the use of clothianidin, which has been on the market since 2003 for use on corn, canola, soy, sugar beets, sunflowers, and wheat (and which has been banned by Germany, France, Italy, and Slovenia for its toxic effects on bees, birds, and other species).

Fast forward to this year. Theobald wrote an article in the July issue of Bee Culture about clothianidin. Then an employee at the EPA called Theobald to tell him the article had led the EPA to review the pesticide’s original life cycle study before approving clothianidin for use on cotton and mustard.

“They told me that EPA scientists had reviewed the original lifecycle study and determined it wasn’t scientifically sound, and I asked if it had been documented, if there was a hard copy,” he says, “The [employee] said yes, and I asked if I could get a copy.” And just like that, he had the proof he needed that the EPA had overlooked something that could be killing America’s bees.

“Everybody is keyed on the leaked memo, but basically it’s a public document,” adds Theobald. He just happened to be the first one to learn about it and ask for it. “The shock was that they did the study at all.”

Theobald has been concerned about clothianidin since it was first released in 2003. The pesticide is a neonicotinoid–a type of insecticide that disrupts the central nervous system of insects. Imidacloprid, the first neonicotinoid to be released in the U.S., came on the market in 1994, and began raising red flags soon after. France banned imidacloprid in 2003 due to concerns of bee die-off triggered by the substance.

Now the stakes are higher than ever. Tom Theobald’s honey crop this year is the smallest he’s seen in 35 years of beekeeping. “This is the critical winter for the beekeeping industry. I don’t think we can survive,” he says. “If the beekeeping industry collapses, it jeopardizes a third of American agriculture.”

America’s domestic violence laws can shock immigrants
Buffalo News
(12/12/10)

Domestic violence laws compound immigrants’ culture shock

(Buffalo, New York’s) Erie County Family Court judges say they have seen a startling rise in the number of domestic abuse and juvenile delinquency cases involving immigrant, refugee and Muslim families who want help but fear police intervention.

In the immigrants’ native countries, these incidents would be considered common social and cultural practices. But in their new home, they are classified as abuse and felony assault.

“We don’t come from another city; we come from another planet,” said Burma refugee Law Eh Soe. “In Burma, you can hit your your wife or kid, but here, it’s a crime.”

Many foreign abusers hold victims hostage by threatening their immigration status in this country, said Shea Post, the victim services outreach coordinator for the International Institute resettlement agency. Language is also a major barrier …

Soe added that services such as counseling are culturally unrecognizable to foreigners from conflict-ridden countries who liken extensive personal questioning to interrogation.

With more than 800 new refugees resettling in the Buffalo area each year, and nearly 1,500 expected next year, the question of how to work with non-native residents struggling with family violence has become a growing challenge for those in the court system …

“In America, we emphasize independence and individual freedoms,” said Family Court Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin in her opening remarks. “This is in direct conflict with certain cultures that emphasize obedience to parents and authority. How do we bridge the gap between behaviors which are accepted between spouses in other cultures, but which are not acceptable or legal here?”

In the 2 1/2 years she’s been judge, Rodwin said, she’s seen at least a doubling of cases involving newcomers to the country and culturally isolated Muslims, noting that child neglect, abuse, family violence and juvenile delinquency are rampant.

These issues certainly are not confined to immigrants and refugees. Domestic violence and child neglect reach across all ethnicities and income levels.

However, social service and legal advocates say immigrants and refugees face additional burdens of cultural differences, post-traumatic stress, generational power struggles, language barriers, immigrant community pressure and family isolation.

This country’s dim view of corporal punishment, its acceptance of women’s rights, and the criminalization of certain family behaviors are often lost on culturally insulated families who come from places where laws against family violence are nonexistent or unenforced.

Kenneth Gibbons, a lawyer who defends many immigrants accused of family violence crimes, said his clients often have a glorified view of this country and are completely shocked when they land in jail on family offense charges.

“They find themselves in court and charged with things that aren’t culturally considered wrong in their countries,” he said.

In addition, immigrant parents accustomed to complete obedience from their children find themselves in a losing power struggle as their children become Americanized and abandon their parents’ cultural values in favor of the individualistic cultural norms of the United States.

“This is where the tensions happen,” said Awadiya Yahyia, a refugee from the Darfur region of Sudan who spoke at the workshop.

Those tensions can line the path to family violence and crime.

Lawyer Eli Ciambrone defended a Somali mother who was accused by her daughter of beating her and trying to sell her into an arranged marriage for $5,000.

The mother denied the charges, saying she was just trying to keep her daughter from dating another Somali refugee who came from a rival clan — an act that would have resulted in her daughter’s execution in her home country.

The daughter later recanted and returned to live with her mother, but Ciambrone found herself fighting Social Services to keep the mother from pleading guilty to charges that could have eventually led to deportation by the Department of Homeland Security.

Another lawyer, Wallace Wiens of Neighborhood Legal Services, recounted an incident where an African refugee’s disabled daughter wound up pregnant by another local male refugee, and questions of consent arose.

The grandmother, who was seeking custody, did not comprehend that lack of consent would be considered a crime in this country. She was pressured by male elders to let the matter drop and allow the father to have the child, Wiens said.

Given the tribal culture the woman came from, the lawyer said, deciding to place faith in the foreign court system was an act of courage. She was awarded custody.

“Domestic violence in just about any culture is a taboo issue, and if you’re a minority here, you don’t want to portray the culture that you’re from in a negative light,” said April Arman, who co-founded RAMAHA in 2006, a local Muslim support group for abuse victims.

Advocates said many victims come from cultures where airing family problems is considered shameful and family unity is paramount.

But more local communities are learning that Family Court can provide orders of protection and other services through civil dispositions that can assist troubled families without leaving a criminal conviction on an immigrant’s record …

“Domestic violence is not acceptable in Islam, or really any faith tradition,” Arman said.

Maybe there is no “post-abortion syndrome”
CBS News
(12/14/10)

Is “Post-Abortion Syndrome” Just a Myth?

Can having an abortion cause a woman to suffer mental problems? Probably not, according to the latest research.

To some, this might seem like a no-brainer, but the findings are in direct contradiction to a well-publicized 2009 study which found women who reported having had an abortion had higher rates of substance abuse and mood disorders than women who had not.

Last year’s study, led by Dr. Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University, analyzed data collected by the National Comorbidity Survey. Coleman found that large numbers of women who had abortions ended up suffering from what the media called “post-abortion syndrome.”

Yet when the same data was analyzed by Dr. Lawrence Finer of the Guttmacher Institute and Julia Steinberg of the University of California in San Francisco, the researchers found that Coleman’s results could not be replicated.

The number of women who had abortions and subsequently suffered from mental problems – as reported by Coleman – were sometimes more than five times as large as the numbers Finer and Steinburg came up with, the Washington Post reported.

“We were unable to reproduce the most basic tabulations of Coleman and colleagues,” Julia Steinberg, a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF, said in a written statement.

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