An official with the US Department of the Interior has been charged with a misdemeanor account of falsely claiming that he did not receive any prohibited gifts in 2003 in a financial filing. Roger G. Stillwell told the Washington Post that he had accepted gifts from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, including free dinners at Abramoff’s restaurant and free tickets to Redskins’ games, though Stillwell claims the Post misquoted him, according to the Legal Times.
Stillwell is the desk officer for the Mariana Islands in the Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs, and the Post reports that before Stillwell took a position with the Interior Department, his communications firm did work on behalf of the Marianas government. Abramoff worked on behalf of the Marianas government and its garment industry to ensure that Congress would not pass laws to upgrade wages and working conditions for immigrant laborers, according to an investigative report in Ms. magazine.
The Marianas are subject to US laws, but are exempt from US minimum wage requirements and most provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Currently, some 30,000 temporary “guestworkers” — predominately women — from China, the Philippines, and Thailand sew clothing for top-name American brands, which are then allowed to label the clothes Made in Saipan (USA), Made in Northern Mariana Islands (USA) or Made in the USA. Reduced to little more than indentured servants due to the high recruitment fees and the low minimum wage, many of these women have been subjected to long working hours (some up to 20 hours a day or even off the clock), and poor living conditions, according to Ms..
Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Hilda Solis (D-CA), and John Spratt (D-SC) introduced a bill earlier this month gradually increase its minimum wage (currently $3.15) until it reaches the federal minimum wage of the US and to follow the US Immigration and Nationality Act as if it were a state. The bill also prohibits the use of the “Made in the USA” label on any products leaving the Marianas unless “the minimum wage was paid to the workers, all labor laws were obeyed, and no indentured servitude was allowed.”
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .