Trump to Appoint Anti-Feminist To Key Women’s Rights Position

Trump intends to nominate a woman named Penny Young Nance as ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. As such, she’d be responsible for managing the State Department’s programs to fight gender-based violence and promote women and girls’ educational and economic achievement.

Here’s the problem: Penny Young Nance has made her career standing in the way of girls’ and women’s rights.

Nance is the President and CEO of Concerned Women For America (CWA), an organization whose mission statement says it “protects and promotes Biblical values and Constitutional principles” in America. The group is as far-right as it gets, and Nance is basically a bargain Phyllis Schlafly — a reactionary zealot getting rich by selling out women and giving the right cover for the right’s openly misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ agenda.

Here’s just a sampling of where Nance and CWA stand:

  • CWA opposed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, partly because it “creates new protections for homosexuals” and partly because it “encourages the dissolution of marriages.” Of course the only marriages that VAWA helps dissolve are abusive ones, but I guess Nance is more concerned with the nuclear family than the 12 million people abused by intimate partners in the United States every year.
  • Remember Jane Doe, the teenage asylum-seeker who the Trump Administration held in custody and prevented from getting an abortion? Penny Nance applauded the Trump Administration’s choice to hold a pregnant minor in detention, deny her access to healthcare, and force her to battle the Trump Administration in court just to exercise her constitutional right to seek an abortion. Nance suggested that Jane could just go home to her parents to “decide what to do” — in other words, that Jane should be deported back to a country where abortion was illegal and returned to parents who beat Jane’s sister to induce a miscarriage.
  • In 2014, when Uganda passed a law designed to put LGBTQ people in jail for life, then-President Obama spoke out against it. CWA condemned Obama for it, saying it was “cultural imperialism.” Weird how conservatives only seem to care about imperialism when it comes to imprisoning gay people! CWA has also said Uganda’s draconian law was “courageous.”
  • Nance applauded Betsy DeVos’ decision to rescind Title IX guidance outlining transgender students’ rights to go to school free from discrimination, suggesting transgender students’ civil rights were mere “political correctness” that were less important than some people who “felt uncomfortable.”
  • Of course, Nance and CWA don’t seem to care much about the 75% of transgender students who feel “uncomfortable” because they’re harassed in school: CWA has lobbied against anti-bullying legislation to protect LGBTQ students and even opposes programs designed to fight bullying. Apparently, telling kids not to call one another names is part of the “pansexual agenda.”
  • CWA lobbied against ENDA, a federal bill to explicitly ban workplace discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Nance even went on Fox to complain about Disney’s “Frozen,” saying that the charming kids movie about two princess sisters who save their Kingdom was bad for “our little boys” who need “ to know that they’re essential. We want to raise heroes. We want to raise real men.” Here I thought almost every movie made since the invention of the video-camera starred boys and men, but sure, whatever, Penny.

Penny Nance is a walking embodiment of the social conservative movement — a woman trying to turn back the clock to the days when women and girls couldn’t choose when to become parents, control our own bodies and economic futures, or even see positive representations of ourselves on TV. No one who opposes women’s rights has any business running an office that’s supposed to empower young women.

The good news: Republicans only have a one-vote majority on the panel that approves ambassador positions, so if all Democrats oppose her and just one Republican joins them, she’s out.

Call your senators. Tell them to keep Penny Nance out of the State Department.

Image credit via.

WHO Update On Plague In Madagascar: 1554 Suspected Cases & 113 Deaths


The tally from Madagascar’s outbreak of (primarily pneumonic) plague continues to rise with the WHO regional office for Africa’s weekly bulletin on outbreaks and other emergencies – Week 43: 21 – 27 October 2017 now placing the number at 1554 cases and 113 deaths.

This represents a steep increase (245 cases and 20 deaths) over what was just reported by the WHO on Friday (current thru the 26th), and is considerably higher than anything being reported by the Madagascar MOH.

Given the wide spread of numbers we’re seeing, isn’t entirely clear whether everybody is reading from the same page. 

With the caveat that these numbers continue to shift back and forth, here is today’s update from the WHO. 


The outbreak of plague in Madagascar continues to improve, with the number of new cases of pulmonary plague declining in all active areas across the country. In the past 2 weeks, 16 previously affected districts reported no new confirmed or probable cases of pulmonary plague.

From 1 August to 27 October 2017, a total of 1 554 suspected cases of plague, including 113 deaths (case fatality rate 7%), were reported. Of these, 985 (63%) were clinically classified as pulmonary plague, 230 (15%) were bubonic plague, 1 was septicaemic, and 338 were unspecified (further classification of cases is in process). Since the beginning of the outbreak, 71 healthcare workers (with no deaths) have been affected.

Of the 985 clinical cases of pneumonic plague, 245 (25%) were confirmed, 336 (34%) were probable and 404 (41%) remain suspected (additional laboratory results are in process). Fourteen strains of Yersinia pestis have been isolated and were sensitive to antibiotics recommended by the National Program for the Control of Plague.

Between 1 August and 27 October 2017, 28 districts reported confirmed and probable cases of pulmonary plague. During the last two weeks, the number of districts that reported confirmed and probable cases of pulmonary plague reduced to 12.

About 78% (4 825) of 6 203 contacts identified completed their 7-day follow up and a course of prophylactic antibiotics. A total of nine contacts developed symptoms and became suspected cases. On 27 October 2017, 1 055 out of 1 087 (97%) contacts were followed up and provided with prophylactic antibiotics.


A high level inter-Ministerial coordination forum, chaired by the Prime Minister, has been established to provide strategic and policy directions to the plague outbreak response. Similarly, the Country Humanitarian Team of the United Nations system established a strategic coordination platform for partners, chaired by the Resident Coordinator.

The health response is coordinated by the Ministry of Public Health, co-led by WHO and supported by agencies and partners directly involved in the health response. The health sector response is organized into four major committees: (i) surveillance, (ii) community engagement and education, (iii) case management, and (v) communication; with the logistics committee crosscutting all committees.

Coordination of partners in the Health cluster has been strengthened to ensure effectiveness, avoid duplication in the field and ensure efficient coverage of the affected areas. The Health cluster is having weekly meetings, with some partners participating in the national coordination platforms.

Cross sectoral non-Health actors (media, transport, defence, education, etc.) are being coordinated by the National Risk and Disaster Management Office (BNGRC).

Nine plague treatment centres have been established, of which six are in Antananarivo. The treatment centres are supported by IFRC, MSF, MdM, UNICEF, and WHO.

USAID provided six mobile clinics to transport patients to hospitals within Antananarivo.

UNICEF supported production of field-tested public awareness/education materials (posters, brochures, radio/television spots). A total of 69 000 posters and brochures have been produced and distributed, including to partners in the Ministries of Transport and Tourism, church groups and other key influencers.


While progress has been made in response to the plague outbreak in Madagascar, sustainability of ongoing operations (during the outbreak and through the plague season usually from September to April) remains critical.

Funds for operations are running low, given the fact that only 26% of the multisector response plan has been funded. Additional response logistics such as temperature monitoring equipment (infrared thermometers), rapid diagnostic tests, personal protective equipment, infection prevention and control supplies, and medicines (antibiotics) need to be provided. Efforts to strengthen outbreak control measures should continue. To that effect, partners and the donor community are called upon to provide additional resources (funds, logistics and human capacity) to ensure continuity of the response operations and eventual containment of the outbreak.

How saving West African forests might have prevented the Ebola epidemic | Vital Signs | The Guardian – “Bingo! What I have been saying for past 5 years.”

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa may have surprised most of the medical establishment – this is the first such outbreak in the region – but the risk had been steadily rising for at least a decade. The risk had grown so high, in fact, that this outbreak was almost inevitable and very possibly predictable.All that was needed was to see the danger was a bat’s eye view of the region. Once blanketed with forests, West Africa has been skinned alive over the last decade. Guinea’s rainforests have been reduced by 80%, while Liberia has sold logging rights to over half its forests. Within the next few years Sierra Leone is on track to be completely deforested.This matters because those forests were habitat for fruit bats, Ebola’s reservoir host. With their homes cut down around them, the bats are concentrating into the remnants of their once-abundant habitat. At the same time, mining has become big business in the region, employing thousands of workers who regularly travel into bat territory to get to the mines.

Source: How saving West African forests might have prevented the Ebola epidemic | Vital Signs | The Guardian

How the CIA Funded & Supported Literary Magazines Worldwide While Waging Cultural War Against Communism

Over the course of this tumultuous year, new CIA director Mike Pompeo has repeatedly indicated that he would move the Agency in a “more aggressive direction.” In response, at least one person took on the guise of former Chilean president Salvador Allende and joked, incredulously, “more aggressive”? In 1973, the reactionary forces of General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende, the first elected Marxist leader in Latin America. Pinochet then proceeded to institute a brutal 17-year dictatorship characterized by mass torture, imprisonment, and execution. The Agency may not have orchestrated the coup directly but it did at least support it materially and ideologically under the orders of President Richard Nixon, on a day known to many, post-2001, as “the other 9/11.”

The Chilean coup is one of many CIA interventions into the affairs of Latin America and the former European colonies in Africa and Asia after World War II. It is by now well known that the Agency “occasionally undermined democracies for the sake of fighting communism,” as Mary von Aue writes at Vice, throughout the Cold War years. But years before some of its most aggressive initiatives, the CIA “developed several guises to throw money at young, burgeoning writers, creating a cultural propaganda strategy with literary outposts around the world, from Lebanon to Uganda, India to Latin America.” They didn’t invent the burgeoning post-war literary movements that first spread through the pages of magazines like The Partisan Review and The Paris Review in the 1950s. But the Agency funded, organized, and curated them, with the full knowledge of editors like Paris Review co-founder Peter Matthiessen, himself a CIA agent.

The Agency waged a cold culture war against international Communism using many of the people who might seem most sympathetic to it. Revealed in 1967 by former agent Tom Braden in the pages of the Saturday Evening Post, the strategy involved secretly diverting funds to what the Agency called “civil society” groups. The focal point of the strategy was the CCF, or “Congress for Cultural Freedom,” which recruited liberal and leftist writers and editors, oftentimes unwittingly, to “guarantee that anti-Communist ideas were not voiced only by reactionary speakers,” writes Patrick Iber at The Awl. As Braden contended in his exposé, in “much of Europe in the 1950s, socialists, people who called themselves ‘left’—the very people whom many Americans thought no better than Communists—were about the only people who gave a damn about fighting Communism.”

No doubt some literary scholars would find this claim tendentious, but it became agency doctrine not only because the CIA saw funding and promoting writers like James Baldwin, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Richard Wright, and Ernest Hemingway as a convenient means to an end, but also because many of the program’s founders were themselves literary scholars. The CIA began as a World War II spy agency called the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). After the war, says Guernica magazine editor Joel Whitney in an interview with Bomb, “some of the OSS guys became professors at Ivy League Universities,” where they recruited people like Matthiessen.

The more liberal guys who were part of the brain trust that formed the CIA saw that the Soviets in Berlin were getting masses of people from other sectors to come over for their symphonies and films. They saw that culture itself was becoming a weapon, and they wanted a kind of Ministry of Culture too. They felt the only way they could get this paid for was through the CIA’s black budget. 

McCarthy-ism reigned at the time, and “the less sophisticated reactionaries,” says Whitney, “who represented small states, small towns, and so on, were very suspicious of culture, of the avant-garde, the little intellectual magazines, and of intellectuals themselves.” But Ivy League agents who fancied themselves tastemakers saw things very differently.

Whitney’s book, Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers, documents the Agency’s whirlwind of activity behind literary magazines like the London-based Encounter, French Preuves, Italian Tempo Presente, Austrian Forum, Australian Quadrant, Japanese Jiyu, and Latin American Cuadernos and Mundo Nuevo. Many of the CCF’s founders and participants conceived of the enterprise as “an altruistic funding of culture,” Whitney tells von Aue. “But it was actually a control of journalism, a control of the fourth estate. It was a control of how intellectuals thought about the US.”

While we often look at post-war literature as a bastion of anti-colonial, anti-establishment sentiment, the pose, we learn from researchers like Iber and Whitney, was often carefully cultivated by a number of intermediaries. Does this mean we can no longer enjoy this literature as the artistic creation of singular geniuses? “You want to know the truth about the writers and publications you love,” says Whitney, “but that shouldn’t mean they’re ruined.” Indeed, the Agency’s cultural operations went far beyond the little magazines. The Congress of Cultural Freedoms used jazz musicians like Louie Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, and Dizzy Gillespie as “goodwill ambassadors” in concerts all over the world, and funded exhibitions of Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, and Willem de Kooning.

The motives behind funding and promoting modern art might mystify us unless we include the context in which such cultural warfare developed. After the Cuban Revolution and subsequent Communist fervor in former European colonies, the Agency found that “soft liners,” as Whitney puts it, had more anti-Communist reach than “hard liners.” Additionally, Communist propagandists could easily point to the U.S.’s socio-political backwardness and lack of freedom under Jim Crow. So the CIA co-opted anti-racist writers at home, and could silence artists abroad, as it did in the mid-60s when Louis Armstrong went behind the Iron Curtain and refused to criticize the South, despite his previous strong civil rights statements. The post-war world saw thriving free presses and arts and literary cultures filled with bold experimentalism and philosophical and political debate. Knowing who really controlled these conversations offers us an entirely new way to view the directions they inevitably seemed to take.

via The Awl

Related Content:

Partisan Review Now Free Online: Read All 70 Years of the Preeminent Literary Journal (1934-2003)

How the CIA Secretly Funded Abstract Expressionism During the Cold War

Louis Armstrong Plays Historic Cold War Concerts in East Berlin & Budapest (1965)

Read the CIA’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual: A Timeless, Kafkaesque Guide to Subverting Any Organization with “Purposeful Stupidity” (1944)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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This Week in Egypt: Week 44- 2017 (Oct 23-29)

Beginning to wonder who is asking questions whether a new approach is needed to deal with internal terrorism… or is no one asking?


Top headlines

  • Egypt’s Sisi orders security reshuffle after attacks
  • Egypt’s Sisi appoints new chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces
  • Pentagon officials announced a $64 million contract New mobile surveillance system for Egypt’s
  • France’s Macron stresses security, not rights, with Egyptian leader Sisi 
  • Copts call for action over church closures in southern Egypt
  • MP drafts homophobic law to jail LGBT people or ‘promoters’ in Egypt

Egypt's new chief of staff

Photo via Mada Maar



  • Frane’s Macron stresses security, not rights, with Egyptian leader Sisi
  • Egypt’s Second Field Army killed six high-risk militants in a crackdown on their hideout in North Sinai
  • 12 Hassm members arrested possessing weapons in Fayoum

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