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Archive for the ‘Children’s rights’ Category

This is Senator Warren’s eyewitness account of what she saw in the McAllen processing center. The words ‘processing center’ should set off bells and whistles.

Elizabeth Warren for Senate 2018
Sunday morning, I flew to McAllen, Texas to find out what’s really happening to immigrant families ripped apart by the Trump administration.

There’s one thing that’s very clear: The crisis at our border isn’t over.

I went straight from the airport to the McAllen Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center that is the epicenter of Donald Trump’s so-called “zero-tolerance” policy. This is where border patrol brings undocumented migrants for intake before they are either released, deported, turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or, in the case of unaccompanied or separated children, placed in the custody of Health and Human Services.

From the outside, the CBP processing center looks like any other warehouse on a commercial street lined with warehouses. There’s no clue about the horrors inside.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

Before we could get in, CBP insisted we had to watch a government propaganda video. There’s no other way to describe it – it’s like a movie trailer. It was full of dramatic narration about the “illegals” crossing our border, complete with gory pictures about the threats that these immigrants bring to the United States, from gangs to skin rashes. The star of the show is CBP, which, according to the video, has done a great job driving down the numbers.

Then an employee described what we were about to see. “They have separate pods. I’ll call them pods. I don’t really know how they name them.” Clearly they had gotten the memo not to call them what they are: cages. Every question I asked them had a complicated answer that led to two more questions – even the simple question about how long people were held there. “Nobody is here longer than 24 hours.” “Well, maybe 24-48 hours.” “72 hours max.” And “no children are separated out.” “Well, except older children.”

The warehouse is enormous, with a solid concrete floor and a high roof. It is filled with cages. Cages for men. Cages for women. Cages for mamas with babies. Cages for girls. Cages for boys.

The stench – body odor and fear – hits the second the door is opened. The first cages are full of men. The chain link is about 12-15 feet high, and the men are tightly packed. I don’t think they could all lie down at the same time. There’s a toilet at the back of the cage behind a half-wall, but no place to shower or wash up. One man kept shouting, “A shower, please. Just a shower.”

I asked the men held in cage after cage where they were from. Nearly all of them were from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.

Then I asked them how long they had been there – and the answers were all over the map, from a few days to nearly two weeks (72 hours max?). The CBP agents rushed to correct the detained men, claiming that their answers couldn’t be right. My immigration specialist on the trip who speaks fluent Spanish made sure the men understood that the question was, “How long have you been in the building?” Their answers didn’t change.

Cage after cage. Same questions, same answers.

Next we came into the area where the children were held. These cages were bigger with far more people. In the center of the cage, there’s a freestanding guard tower probably a story or story-and-a-half taller to look down over the children. The girls are held separately in their own large cage. The children told us that they had come to the United States with family and didn’t know where they had been taken. Eleven years old. Twelve. Locked in a cage with strangers. Many hadn’t talked to their mothers or fathers. They didn’t know where they were or what would happen to them next.

The children were quiet. Early afternoon, and they just sat. Some were on thin mats with foil blankets pulled over their heads. They had nothing – no books, no toys, no games. They looked shell shocked.

And then there were the large cages with women and small children. Women breast-feeding their young children.

When we went over to the mamas with babies, I asked them about why they had left their home countries. One young mother had a 4-year-old child. She said she had been threatened by the gangs in El Salvador. She had given a drink of water to a police officer, and the gang decided she must be in with the police. The longer she spoke, the more agitated she got – that she would never do that, that she understood the risk with the gangs, but that the gangs believed she did it. She sold everything she had and fled with her son to the United States.

One thing you won’t see much of in the CBP processing center? Fathers caged with their children. After pressing the CBP agents, they explained that men traveling with children are automatically released from the facility. They just don’t have the cages there to hold them. Women with small children, on the other hand, could be detained indefinitely. I pressed them on this again and again. The only answer: they claimed to be protecting “the safety of the mother and children.”

CBP said that fathers with children, pregnant women, mothers of children with special needs, and other “lucky ones” who are released from the processing center are sent over to Catholic Charities’ Humanitarian Respite Center for help. That was my next stop in McAllen. Sister Norma, her staff, and volunteers are truly doing God’s work. Catholic Charities provides food, a shower, clean clothes, and medicine to those who need it. The center tries to explain the complicated process to the people, and the volunteers help them get on a bus to a family member in the United States.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

Sister Norma introduced me to a father and his teenage son from Honduras. The father said that a gang had been after his son, determined that the boy would join the gang. The only way for the boy to escape was to run. The man left his wife and four daughters in Honduras to bring his son to the United States. His only plan is to find work here to send money home to his family. His cousin lives in New Jersey, so CBP sent their paperwork to the local ICE center in New Jersey, and they would soon begin the long bus ride there.

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley provides a lifesaving service to people of all faiths and backgrounds, but with a humanitarian crisis in their backyard, they’re clearly stretched as thin as it gets. With more money and volunteers, they would gladly help more people.

I asked Sister Norma about the women and babies who were in indefinite detention. She said her group would open their arms and take care of them, get them cleaned up and fed and on a bus to a family member – if only ICE would release them.

“This is a moral issue. We are all part of this human family,” they say.

Next, I met with some of the legal experts on the frontlines of this crisis – lawyers from the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Border Rights Center of the Texas ACLU, and the federal public defenders.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

I gave them a rundown of everything I’d seen so far in McAllen, particularly when it comes to reuniting parents and children, and they raised some of my worst fears,

  • The Trump administration may be “reunifying” families, but their definition of a family is only a parent and a child. If, for example, a 9-year-old crosses with an 18-year-old sister – or an aunt or uncle, or a grandparent, or anyone who isn’t the child’s documented legal guardian – they are not counted as a family and they will be separated.
  • Mothers and children may be considered “together” if they’re held in the same gigantic facility, even if they’re locked in separate cages with no access to one another. (In the world of CBP and ICE, that’s how the 10-year-old girls locked in a giant cage are “not separated” from their mothers who are in cages elsewhere in the facility.)
  • In the process of “reunifying” families, the government may possibly count a family as reunited by sending the child to a distant relative they’ve never met – not their parents. Some relatives may be unwilling to claim these children because it would be inviting ICE to investigate their own families.
  • Parents are so desperate to be reunited with their children that they may be trading in their legal right to asylum.
  • The system for tracking separated families is virtually unknown, if one exists at all. One expert worries that for some families, just a simple photo may be all the documentation that the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services have to reunite them. (I sincerely hope that’s not true.)

The longer the day went on, the more questions I had about how the Trump administration plans to fix the crisis they’ve created at the border. So my last stop of the day was at the Port Isabel Detention Center, about an hour east of McAllen. It’s one of the largest detention facilities in Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security had released some details on its plan to reunify families. The release noted that Port Isabel will be the “primary family reunification and removal center for adults in their custody.”

Let’s be clear: Port Isabel isn’t a reunification center. It’s a detention center. A prison.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

There’s no ambiguity on this point. I met with the head of the facility. He said several times that they had no space for children, no way to care for them, and no plans to bring any children to his locked-down complex. When I pressed on what was the plan for reunification of children with their parents, he speculated that HHS (the Department of Health and Human Services) would take the children somewhere, but it certainly wasn’t going to be to his facility. When I asked how long HHS would take, he speculated that it would be weeks, but he said that was up to them. He had his job to do: He would hold these mothers and fathers until he received orders to send them somewhere else. Period.

So let me say it again. This is a prison – not a reunification center.

We toured the center. It is huge – multiple buildings isolated on a sun-baked expanse of land far from any town. We didn’t go to the men’s area, but the women are held in a large bunk-bed facility with a concrete outdoor exercise area. It’s locked, double-locked, and triple locked. Tall fences topped with razor wire are everywhere, each backed up by a second row of fences also topped with razor wire.

An ICE official brought in a group of nine detained mothers who had volunteered to speak to us. I don’t believe that ICE cherry-picked these women for the meeting, because everything they told me was horrifying.

Each mother told us her own story about crossing the border, being taken to a processing center, and the point that they were separated from their child or children. In every case, the government had lied to them about where their children were being taken. In every case, save one, no mother had spoken to her child in the days since the separation. And in every case, no mother knew where her child was.

At the time of separation, most of the mothers were told their children would be back. One woman had been held at “the icebox,” a center that has earned its nickname for being extremely cold. When the agent came to take her child, she was told that it was just too cold for the child in the center, and that they were just going to keep the child warm until she was transferred. That was mid-June. She hasn’t seen her child since.

One mother had been detained with her child. They were sleeping together on the floor of one of the cages, when, at 3:00am, the guards took her away. She last saw her 7-year-old son sleeping on the floor. She cried over and over, “I never got to say goodbye. I never got to say goodbye.” That was early-June, and she hasn’t seen him since.

Even though the CBP officials at the processing center told me that mothers with children that have special needs would be released, one of the mothers I spoke with had been separated from her special needs child. She talked about her child who doesn’t have properly formed legs and feet and walks with great difficulty. One of the mothers spoke of another mother in the facility who is very worried because her separated child is deaf and doesn’t speak at all.

The women I met were traumatized, weeping, and begging for help. They don’t understand what is happening to them – and they’re begging to be reunited with their kids.

Detainees can pay to make phone calls, but all of their possessions are taken from them at the processing center. The only way they can get money for a call is for someone to put money on their accounts. I asked if people or charities could donate money so that they’d be able to make phone calls to their family or lawyers, but they said no – a donor would need the individual ID number for every person detained at the center, and ICE obviously isn’t going to release that information.

Three young lawyers were at Port Isabel at the same time we were. The lawyers told us that their clients – the people they’ve spoken to in the detention center – have strong and credible cases for asylum. But the entire process for being granted asylum depends on one phone call with an immigration official where they make the case for why they should be allowed to stay. One of the first questions a mother will be asked is, “Have you been separated from a child?” For some of the women, just asking that question makes them fall apart and weep.

The lawyers are worried that these women are in such a fragile and fractured state, they’re in no shape to make the kind of detailed, credible case needed for themselves or their children. They had no chance in our system because they’ve lost their children and desperately want them back.

We stayed inside at Port Isabel for more than two hours – much longer than the 45 minutes we had been promised. When I finally went to bed that night, I thought about something the mothers had told me – something that will likely haunt me for a long time.

The mothers say that they can hear babies cry at night.

This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. This is about human beings. Children held in cages today. Babies scattered all over this country. And mamas who, in the dark of night, hear them cry.

I’m still working through everything I saw, but I wanted you to know the full story. The fight for these children and families isn’t over – not by a long shot.

Thanks for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

P.S. Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley’s Humanitarian Respite Center provides food, clothing, medicine, diapers, and other basic supplies for immigrant families released by Customs & Border Protection. They need our support to help more children and families. Please donate now to help their emergency relief efforts at the border.

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For my 19th birthday — declare #YesAllGirls

Today — my 19th birthday — I’m in Kenya visiting Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp.

Every year on my birthday I travel to meet girls who are struggling to go to school — to stand with them and to make sure the world hears their stories.

Today in Dadaab I met Rahma Hussein Noor, a 19 year-old who has struggled more than most of us can imagine just to go to school.

Rahma came to Dadaab at age 13, having never set foot in a classroom. She worked hard to catch up with her classmates and, in a few years, graduated primary school.

Rahma then enrolled in a secondary school in Dadaab. But when her family returned to Somalia last year, Rahma could not find another school to attend.

After two months, her father said her education was over and decided to marry her to a man over 50 years old whom Rahma had never met.

Rahma snuck out of her house and took an eight day bus ride back to the refugee camp…all to continue her education.

Rahma is not alone. Many girls from Syria, Burundi, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all around the world have lost so much and are then forced to fight for a right they already have — the right to go to school.

Last year, the world agreed to provide 12 years of education for every boy and girl. Yet, nearly one year after making the commitment, where do we stand?

We are facing a global refugee crisis and more and more girls like Rahma are at risk of losing their chance to go to school — and their dreams for a better future.

We cannot allow girls like Rahma to fight alone. It’s time to do right by girls — #YesAllGirls.

Today, on my 19th birthday, I’m asking you to stand with me and keep fightng for girls around the world who are denied an education. Will you make a gift today to ensure girls — #YesAllGirls — get the education we promised them?

Nothing would make me prouder on my birthday than knowing we are in this together.

Like this essay and respond to Malala here >>>>

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It began with a demand for Barack Obama’s birth certificate to legitimize his presidential bid.  Now, with bathroom laws in several states, you had best have your BC with you when you need to pee.

In a conference call today, Karen Finney mentioned a time when girls were not permitted to wear pants to school.  Some schools, amazingly, are citing BCs as the arbiter of what may or may not be considered appropriate prom attire.

The prom is more than a rite of passage.  As a school function, it is also an educational event where budding young adults first get to step into the social circle of adulthood.  Choosing prom attire is part of that process. (See the movie Carrie.)

Before the chicks fly at graduation, they get to test their wings and identities at the social event of the season sponsored by the school.  They will fledge as the products of their alma maters.  They should be allowed, whatever educators have stuffed¹ in their heads, to choose the feathers they feel best identify their individual varieties and should feel protected and resplendent in their right to do so.


¹“There are three things to remember when teaching: know your stuff; know whom you are stuffing; and then stuff them elegantly.” – Lola May


Why Were These Prom Outfits “Offensive”?  See the slideshow >>>>

<p>Prom season is in full swing, bringing about a flurry of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/08/magazine/the-awkward-charm-of-the-promposal.html?_r=0">creative “prom-posals,”</a> the occasional <a href="http://www.refinery29.com/2016/01/102240/gina-rodriguez-giving-golden-globes-dress-to-fan">touching tale</a> of a <a href="http://www.refinery29.com/2016/04/108882/prom-dress-memorial-catherine-malatesta">particularly meaningful dress</a>, and stories involving some <a href="http://www.refinery29.com/2016/02/103244/tim-tebow-haiti-night-to-shine-prom#slide">very deserving kids</a>. The big occasion also entails prom horror stories (being stood up, <a href="http://www.refinery29.com/2016/03/106212/lupita-nyongo-prom">like Lupita</a>, e.g.) — and, for some, unsolicited mass <a href="http://www.refinery29.com/2016/05/111024/free-crocs-high-school-prom">shipments of Crocs</a>. Unfortunately, the high school milestone that many students partake in also inevitably involves a slew of supposed dress code violations. As for the looks that have gotten people booted out of the grand event (or, for some, barred from even stepping foot inside)? They range from legitimately puzzling to offensive…that they’re considered offensive.</p><p>Oh, and did we mention that these ostensibly “inappropriate” looks are just from this year’s prom season? (There were plenty of <a href="http://www.refinery29.com/2015/06/88171/banned-fashion#slide">questionable dress code calls</a> in 2015, too.) Click through for six prom-dressing violations that have to be seen to be believed.</p>

Charlize Theron at Cannes yesterday.

Sarah Jessica Parker at the Met Gala earlier this month.

Helen+Mirren+Eye+Sky+New+York+Premiere+UUPyTrCTfhQl

Helen Mirren DBE at the “Eye in the Sky” premiere NYC 3/9/16

Hillary Clinton – next POTUS –  at evening events.
clinton-apec-singapore Hillary-signatureAs for those flesh-toned garments with nude and sheer material….


Just sayin’.

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There were many ways this might or might not have ended.  Who expected this?  Of course, until the girls actually are physically home nothing is sure.

 

Nigeria: Deal Agreed To Return Kidnapped Girls

Nigeria’s presidency says it has agreed a ceasefire with militants Boko Haram which would see the return of 219 kidnapped girls.

Air Marshal Alex Badeh, chief of defence staff, said: “A ceasefire agreement has been concluded between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal Jihad (Boko Haram).

“I have accordingly directed the service chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with this development in the field.”

The president’s principal secretary Hassan Tukur told the AFP news agency that an agreement to end hostilities had been reached after talks with the Islamist group.

He said: “Boko Haram issued the ceasefire as a result of the discussions we have been having with them.

“That have agreed to release the Chibok girls.”

Read more >>>>

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Seventeen days ago, and two weeks into the ordeal of what we now know to be nearly 300 young female Nigerian scholars, Al Jazeera America began publicizing the Twitter hashtag campaign #BringBackOurGirls.   I had not seen any other news outlet acknowledge the story at that point.  Plenty of time and money had been spent for weeks on the missing airliner and the sunken ferry, but it seemed at the time that no one was particularly concerned about thugs invading a girls’ dormitory on the eve of final exams and abducting them for doing exactly what they were there to do: studying.

First and foremost, at that time,  the story needed publicity – a higher profile – and the hashtag campaign seemed exactly what was needed so I came here, posted about it, and tweeted the post with the hashtag.  Reactions to that post indicated what I had predicted.  A lot of people did not know about this situation.  I continued posting and tweeting and as the days went by the hashtag campaign did what it was meant to do.  It went viral.  Big names picked it up and the media could no longer ignore the story.

The whole point of the campaign was to raise public awareness, and it worked.  Now it is a story.  Now it gets coverage.  People know.  The global hashtag campaign forced the hand of the Nigerian government which had done nothing to help the girls or their families.  Now on the evening news we see the girls, their faces sad and surrounded by veils.  We see the abductors, cocky and jeering.

The girls are not home yet.  We are not even sure where they are.  We have heard the stories of a few who escaped, and at least one says that she cannot return to school.  Mission accomplished, Boko Haram!  At least one young woman will not be studying Darwin,  or be looking online at powerful telescopic photos near the moment of the Big Bang, or grow up to find ways to build a greener future for her country – the leading oil producing nation on the continent.

The supremely ironic, crazy attack by right-wing media on the hashtag campaign and on Hillary Clinton (I predicted that here) should come as no surprise and is no coincidence.

Rush Limbaugh Claims Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama ‘Sympathize With Boko Haram

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While everyone is paying attention to Greece and Spain, Italy is teetering  on the brink.  Some pundits say that the real  fate of the Eurozone lies in Italy’s ability to weather the current economic winds. It occurred to me that I did not know whether the Vatican was part of the EU.  It is not, but, oddly, its currency is the Vatican Euro which is made in Rome.

With brand names like Prada, Ferrari, and Armani continuing to do well, Italy may come through just fine.  That is not why I raised the subject.  It is pretty clear to anyone who knows anything about the Vatican why that sovereign state would eschew EU membership.  Legendary accumulated wealth and perennially resurfacing Vatican Bank scandals hint at roiling financial and economic storms beneath the serene surface.  A two thousand year history of borderline incestuous relations with European royalty may have established much of the Vatican’s wealth, but a side effect might be the belief that the tiny city-state gets to dictate what happens politically in other countries.  When Vatican officials tried to bitch-slap American nuns recently, the nuns not only stood their ground, but, in an all-American huff, decided to take their message on the road.

Nuns, Rebuked by Rome, Plan Road Trip to Spotlight Social Issues

By
Published: June 5, 2012

In a spirited retort to the Vatican, a group of Roman Catholic nuns is planning a bus trip across nine states this month, stopping at homeless shelters, food pantries, schools and health care facilities run by nuns to highlight their work with the nation’s poor and disenfranchised.

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Sister Simone Campbell is organizing a bus tour to draw attention to nuns’ work with the poor and to protest planned aid cuts.

Doug Mills/The New York Times

The bus’s decal.

The bus tour is a response to a blistering critique of American nuns released in April by the Vatican’s doctrinal office, which included the accusation that the nuns are outspoken on issues of social justice, but silent on other issues the church considers crucial: abortion and gay marriage.

Read more>>>>

I am reminded of this incident.

5 Nuns in New Jersey Break Away Over Break With Tradition

By ROBERT HANLEY, Special to the New York Times
Published: October 08, 1988

Five cloistered nuns are protesting at their monastery here over the relaxation of rigid monastic lifestyles rooted in the 16th century.

Since Tuesday, the five have secluded themselves in the monastery’s second-floor infirmary, fearful they face eviction from the monastery because of their opposition to the recent introduction of a television, classical music and brighter lighting in the prayer chapel.

To the five sisters, these 20th-century society elements are distractions to their dedication to solitude, silence and daily contemplative prayer, and the abandonment of the reclusive principles of their order, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, founded in 1562.

Read more >>>>

A brilliant friend, mentor, and colleague of mine, a naturalized American able to see our culture through eyes more objective than our own and trained in anthropology,  and I were driving past that cloister a few years later.  “I wish I could have spoken to the Pope during that stand-off,” she said.  “He didn’t realize he was dealing with protestant nuns.”  Her larger thesis was that all Americans, regardless of the religious tradition in which we are raised, are essentially protestants.  It’s what we do.  We protest.  Our nation was born in protest and the founders enshrined that right in the very first amendment to our constitution.  That is the importance they lent to the role of protest in our infant culture.

Sister Simone Campbell and her bus mates along with Sister Margaret Farley (whom the Vatican officials appear to regard as a ring leader in all of this disruption to their traditional message of vilification for the practices of birth control and gay marital union) stand with the grand majority of Roman Catholic American nuns who have not missed the connections between these practices and the economic health of the greater society.  Gay marriage more than affords equal rights to gay couples.  It permits medical coverage,  pension and social security benefits to dependents of those marriages – benefits that parties to straight marriage accept without the blink of an eye – to which, in fact, they feel entitled.  Birth control permits reproductive responsibility in families that calculate their fiscal ability to support a family at $235,000 per child per year 0 – 17 years (not including post secondary education).

The nuns are very much part of the fabric of American life.  Their long tradition of working on the ground with children and families allows them insights that men isolated in Vatican enclaves cannot possibly appreciate.  The Nuns on the Bus are out to educate Americans – voting citizens (which Vatican officials are not) – as to the dangers inherent in the proposed Ryan budget.  Les eminences grises could learn a thing or two from them as well.  American nuns have been educating Americans for more than two hundred years.  We applaud this effort by our all-American protestant Catholic nuns.  Go Sisters!!!!!!

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If there were a reality show called “Who’s the REAL Feminist?” Andrew Sullivan evidently considers himself a candidate for judge.  He, predictably,  had the unmitigated gall to assume the role of “feminist maven”on an “Overtime” segment of HBO’s Bill Maher Show.  How appropriate!

He debated the issue with Wendy Schiller, associate professor at Brown University on the segment.  Talk about picking your opponent!  Sullivan, once again, has shown himself to be the good old misogynist we have all come to know and despise.  There is a video in the article. WordPress would not accept the code, so I could not post it here.  You can watch it when you click into The Daily Caller article.

Andrew Sullivan slams Hillary Clinton: ‘Not a feminist’

Published: 6:26 PM 03/24/2012

On Friday’s “Overtime” segment of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Newsweek columnist and The Daily Beast’s “The Dish” blogger Andrew Sullivan made a comparison between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

According to Sullivan, Thatcher’s legacy was “amazing” because she never played the sex card.

“Thatcher was amazing to me because … she never allowed another woman in her own cabinet, by the way, ever, in 11 years,” Sullivan said. “She’s also a woman in the 50s, got educated in chemistry and had a family and ran as a single woman, and never once in her entire life played the sex card. Never, never played it.”

“… she never allowed another woman in her own cabinet.”  What a testament!  These women would probably disagree with Judge Sullivan.

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There are many, many more like them.  Hillary Clinton has worked for 40 years for women, children, and families.  As Secretary of State,  her signature issue has been the empowerment of women and girls.   Meryl Streep stated,  introducing this amazing woman,  a hero to so many of us,  at the Women in the World Summit this month, that there are women in the world who are still alive today only because they had their pictures taken with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Comparing her unfavorably with the woman who showed not an ounce of empathy with the mothers of the Long Kesh hunger strikers, defies reason and serves to disqualify Sullivan as any kind of judge of feminism.

How dare you, Andrew Sullivan!  You crossed the line, and we are watching you!

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