Wednesday, November 18
"To determine the prevalence of self-induced abortions in Texas, investigators surveyed women and asked them whether they had ever tried to end a pregnancy outside a clinical setting, or if their best friend had," reports Amanda Holpuch for the Guardian. "The best-friend measure was included because women tend to under-report abortions in studies."
Surveys are less than reliable, but methods for tallying such incidents are simply not available. As described in Allure of Deceit, a few women could be successful in terminating their own pregancy. Others fail and go on to deliver a child. The study suggests that between 100,000 and 240,000 women in the state of 27 million tried to induce an abortion at home.
Allure of Deceit, set in a fictional remote village in Afghanistan, takes an unconventional look at the topic.
The little girl was plump, content, alert. Before finding Shareen, Zahira had once believed that abortion was kinder than adoption. A mother could never trust a stranger with her child, and thoughts of Shareen with another woman were abhorrent.
Zahira had rescued the child not once, but twice. Their relationship was exceptional, though it was ironic how much Zahira sounded like the women who opposed abortion for others but vehemently justified their own.
The suspense novel begins at a lavish charity event and a Texas woman's hope to secure funding for a charity designed to introduce natural family planning in Afghanistan. The director of the largest foundation in the world uses such activities to investigate the death of her only son. His fortune led to the foundation's creation.
The US total fertility rate, the average number of children born to women during child-bearing years, has been in decline since the 2007-2008 recession, going from 2.09 children per woman in 2006 and 2007 to 2.01 in 2014, suggests CIA World Factbook and Mundi. Texas, at 2.07, ranks among the 10 US states with highest fertility rates.
Afghanistan's fertility rate stands at 4.9 for 2013 down from its height of 7.9 around 2000 when the Taliban controlled the country, notes World Bank data. The CIA puts the country's fertility rate estimate at 5.33 children per women. Countries that have higher fertility rates than Afghanistan: Niber, Burundi, Mali, Somalia, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Malawi, Angola. Texas's rate at 2.07 is less than rates for France and Guyana, higher than those in Grenada or Libya.
Places with higher fertility rates have younger populations and, with a median age of 33.6, Texas is the second youngest after Utah, according to the US Census.
The median age for the US is 37.8. For Afghanistan it is 18.4 - meaning half of Afghan people are children, according to CIA estimates. The Texas median age compares with Chile's, Greenland's, North Korea, Palau and Saint Lucia.
Fertility rates influence a society's environmental, security and economic conditions. Good governance requires monitoring demographics for long-term policy planning, and problems including waves of immigration, when young populations do not receive adequate education, health care and other services.
Photo of children in Afghanistan following a patrol by coalition forces and a provincial reconstruction team in Laghman Province 2011, courtesy of Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane and Wikimedia Commons. Fear of Beauty is the story of a provincial reconstruction team in Helmand and an Afghan woman desperate to learn how to read after the death of her son on the night before he is supposed to leave for school.
Monday, November 16
One CIA estimate puts the Islamic State manpower at 31,500. By comparison, the United Nations estimates "that 7.6 million people are internally displaced" and "more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders," reports Mercy Corps.
Countries including the United States, Jordan, France and many others target Islamic State sites with air strikes. But air strikes are imprecise. Hitting civilians is inevitable, especially in battling an opponent that lacks a code of conduct.
Reporting for AP, Vivian Salama and Zeina Karam report on the tragic inevitability as described by Airwars, a group that monitors the war against the Islamic State and tracks civilian casualties.
"The coalition's war against ISIL has inevitably caused civilian casualties, certainly far more than the two deaths Centcom presently admits to," notes [the Airwars website]. " Yet it's also clear that in this same period, many more civilians have been killed by Syrian and Iraqi government forces, by Islamic State and by various rebel and militia groups operating on both sides of the border."
So far, Airwars reports more than 8,000 strikes, estimating 20,000 Islamic State deaths and up to 200 deaths.
Some context: Totals of civilian deaths caused by the Islamic State are notably lacking.
Also, monitoring groups suggest that the Syrian government and Assad regime are responsible for many more deaths than the Islamic State - an estimated 250,000 during the four-year civil war in Syria. "Between January and July , Assad’s military and pro-government militias killed 7,894 people, while the Islamic State killed 1,131, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain," reports Hugh Naylor for the Washington Post.
Such casualty counts are likely low, with reports of mass graves found in areas near Sinjar, overtaken by Iraqi Kurdish forces: One is reported to contain 78 women between the ages of 40 and 80 years old and the other had bodies of about 50 men, both likely Yazidis. Authorities anticipate finding other grave sites, reports Nabih Bulos for the Los Angeles Times.
After the attacks in Paris that killed more than 125 and injured more than 300, the international community will likely join with Russia, and targeting the Islamic State will take priority over removal of Assad as Syria's leader.
At least eight governors in the United States are making moves to block Syrian refugees in Texas, Massachusetts, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Michigan, reports Nolan D. McCaskill for Politico.
Many contend that ground troops are required for thorough defeat of the Islamic State, but citizens throughout the West resist sending their soldiers and expect Muslim nations in the Middle East to defend their territory - though it must be noted that the conflict in Syria is highly complex as the United States supports Kurdish rebels and Turkey, a member of NATO and US ally, targets those same fighters described as successful against the Islamic State. Russia, too, targets rebels who oppose the Assad regime.
An imperfect solution for the Syrian refugee crisis, one grounded in gender and age bias: conduct screenings and open borders for women with children under age 15 and adults older than age 50.A tough for the international community.
Terrorist attacks on civilian targets in Europe, North America and beyond are anticipated, too. The Islamic State is a disturbing problem global in scale.
"Attacks by Islamic State terrorists in Syria, Iraq and beyond pose consequences for refugees fleeing communities throughout the Middle East and moderate Muslims," YaleGlobal reminds. "Globalization of communications, travel and more ensures that regarding violence, hatred, terrorism as routine for the region with a population of more than 200 million can threaten global security."
Photo of refugees at Budapest Keleti railway station in Hungary, courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov and Wikimedia Commons.