Editor's note: Miriam Defensor Santiago is in her third term as a member of the Philippines Senate and a co-sponsor of the Reproductive Health Bill. She is also the founder of People's Reform Party. Last year she was selected to be a judge in the International Criminal Court, though she has still to take office.
By Miriam Defensor Santiago, Special for CNN
Manila, Philippines (CNN) - We were like David against Goliath. We fought long and hard, and in the end we prevailed.
After 14 long years in the dustbins of Congress, mainly due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church, the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill was approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday, 17 December 2012.
Indeed, there is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And the time for a Philippine reproductive health law is now.
The Philippines remains one of the poorest countries in the world because, among other things, for a long time, it refused to acknowledge what could easily be seen when one glances out the window: the country desperately needs a reproductive health law.
Not having a reproductive health law is cruelty to the poor. The poor are miserable because, among other reasons, they have so many children. Providing reproductive knowledge and information through government intervention is the humane thing to do. It can help the poor escape the vicious cycle of poverty by giving them options on how to manage their sexual lives, plan their families and control their procreative activities. The phrase "reproductive rights" includes the idea of being able to make reproductive decisions free from discrimination, coercion or violence.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Bassam Gergi is studying for a master's degree in comparative government at St. Antony's College, Oxford, where he is also a Dahrendorf Scholar. Ali Breland studies philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.
By Bassam Gergi and Ali Breland, Special to CNN
(CNN) - On the Sunday after the Newtown massacre, President Barack Obama traveled to Connecticut to comfort the grieving community. As the president offered what he could to the town, other American communities, in less visible ways, were grappling with their own menace of violence.
In Camden, New Jersey - a city that has already suffered 65 violent deaths in 2012 , surpassing the previous record of 58 violent deaths set in 1995 - 50 people turned out, some bearing white crosses, to mourn a homeless woman known affectionately as the "cat lady" who was stabbed to death (50 of the deaths so far this year resulted from gunshot wounds.)
In Philadelphia, on the same Sunday, city leaders came together at a roundtable to discuss their own epidemic of gun violence; the year-to-date total of homicides is 322. Last year, 324 were killed. Of those victims, 154 were 25 or younger. A councilman at the roundtable asked, "How come as a city we're not in an outrage? How come we're not approaching this from a crisis standpoint?"FULL STORY
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - It makes sense that since the start of the recession, the birth rate in America has been declining.
In 2011, it dipped to the lowest rate ever recorded: 63.2 per 1,000 women between 15 and 44, the prime childbearing ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That plunge was led by immigrant women, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released Thursday.
The birth rate for U.S.-born women declined 6% between 2007 (when the recession began) and 2010. However, the rate for foreign-born women plunged 14%, more than in the 17 years before the downturn.
Both foreign- and U.S.-born Hispanic women had larger drops in birth rate than any other group, Pew found. That correlates with larger percentage declines in household wealth for Hispanics than in white, black or Asian households. FULL POST
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Anna worked seven days a week as a nanny for the family of a Fortune 500 company executive. She lived with them in their 5th Avenue apartment in Midtown Manhattan. Her day began at 6 when the children woke up and didn't end until 10 at night when she put them to bed and cleaned the kitchen.
She cooked meals, did laundry and tended to the children's needs. She slept on the floor in between their beds. She did not have a single day off in 15 months.
She was hired because of the child development skills she learned as a teacher in her native Philippines. Yet she earned just $1.27 an hour.
Anna's story, documented in a groundbreaking statistical report on U.S. domestic workers released Tuesday, is not uncommon. It said Anna was part of a system of invisible workers - mostly women, mostly minorities and increasingly immigrant - who enable many Americans to function in their own lives.
By Tami Luhby @CNNMoney
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - One wants to strengthen the nation's existing safety net. The other wants to overhaul it.
President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney have vastly different views on how to help the 46.2 million Americans in poverty and the more than 30 million people who are near poor. The president leans toward expanding the programs that exist, while the Republicans say they will set up a system that fosters economic opportunity instead of government dependency.
The ranks of the poor and the government programs that assist them swelled during the Obama administration, largely because of the Great Recession. The number of people in poverty jumped 16% between 2008 and 2011, while the Medicaid rolls jumped 23.5% over that time. Food stamp enrollment soared 46% during his term.
Just who is elected president matters a great deal for the poor. In the weeks following Election Day, the president and lawmakers will have to deal with large, across-the-board cuts in domestic spending scheduled to take effect in January. While certain programs for the poor, such as food stamps and Medicaid, would be protected, other initiatives, including Head Start and housing assistance, could be slashed.Read the full post on CNN Money's Economy blog
This is the second in an occasional series on issues of race, identity and politics ahead of Election Day, including a look at the optics of politics, a white Southern Democrat fighting for survival and a civil rights icon registering voters.
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) - A tall, caramel-complexioned man marched across the steps of the U.S. Capitol to be sworn into office as a jubilant crowd watched history being made.
The man was an African-American of mixed-race heritage, an eloquent speaker whose election was hailed as a reminder of how far America had come.
But the man who placed his hand on the Bible that winter day in Washington wasn't Barack Obama. He was Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate.
His election and that of many other African-Americans to public office triggered a white backlash that helped destroy Reconstruction, America’s first attempt to build an interracial democracy in the wake of the Civil War. FULL POST
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Abigail Fisher argues that the University of Texas unconstitutionally considered race in admitting students, resulting in her exclusion. She sued the university, and on Wednesday, the highest court in the land began hearing the case, reigniting contentious debate on whether a policy of preferences does good or harm.
Should America consider new limits on racial preferences? Or ban them altogether?
Should we be chanting "Long live affirmative action"? Or cheering its death?
A few years ago, in a Supreme Court ruling on school desegregation, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
Simple enough to say, but, of course, a far more difficult notion to implement. FULL POST
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) The Census Bureau released a depressing statistic Thursday: 46.2 million people in America fell below the poverty line last year. One in five children are poor.
What does it feel like to live in poverty?
Writer John Scalzi knows.
He remembers a Southern California childhood marred by a broken family. His mother put her two children in the back of the car and drove away from the home they’d known.
She bought a box of Raisin Bran and warned her children: “That has to last.”
Scalzi, 43, was in the first grade then.
Years later, the Raisin Bran memory became a line in an essay called “Being Poor.” He wrote it in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when so many asked why the poor of New Orleans had not fled their drowned city.
It occurred to him then that wealthier Americans did not understand that the poor do not always have the luxury of choice.
But he knew.
He was the kid who wore the cheap shoes from Lucky Drug Store – the ones with the glued-on soles. He could feel them come off on the playground.
He was the kid who discovered letters from his mom to his dad begging for child support and the kid hoping he would get invited to a friend’s for dinner. He once stole a piece of meat from Ralph’s supermarket, fried it up and cleaned the plate before Mom came home. He then told her she didn’t have to make any dinner because he wasn’t hungry anyway.
Here are a few other ways Scalzi measured poverty:
Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.
Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.
Being poor is living next to the freeway.
Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.
Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.
Being poor is Goodwill underwear.
Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.
Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger’s trash.
Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.
Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.
Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.
Read Scalzi’s full essay here.
By Blake Ellis, @CNNMoney
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Nearly 10 million households across the country are living without a bank account. And in some states, these residents make up a big slice of the population.
Among all of the regions in the country, the South has the largest percentage of residents who are "unbanked," meaning they don't have a checking or a savings account. According to an FDIC report released this week, 10% of the region's population doesn't have a bank account, compared to the national average of 8.2%.
While 37% of U.S. households live inthe South, nearly half - or 46% - of all unbanked households in the country reside in this region. And so do nearly 40% of the nation's poor, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
And that's no coincidence, said Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of CardHub.com and former head of a team at Capital One tasked with identifying products for unbanked customers. "Wherever you see high poverty and low-income populations, you will see higher populations of unbanked," he said.
Mississippi, which has suffered the highest poverty rate in the country for years, also has the biggest population of unbanked households - with 15% of its residents lacking a bank account. Texas and Arkansas follow, with bankless rates of 12.8% and 12.3%, respectively.
Compare that with New Hampshire, which has the lowest rate of unbanked, at 1.9%, as well as the lowest poverty rate in the nation.FULL STORY