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Michelle Obama’s Breastfeeding Initiative Draws Criticism [inhabitots]

Since Michelle Obama announced her plans to promote breastfeeding, numerous Republicans and conservatives have declared publicly that breastfeeding shouldn’t be promoted or supported by the government. For example, on Laura Ingraham’s radio show last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, told Laura that the First Lady’s breastfeeding promotion represents a “hard left” position in which “government is the answer to everything.” Bachmann also compared the breastfeeding campaign to “social engineering” and ranted about the new tax deductions for breast pumps. Unfortunately, for Bachmann, the IRS deduction is completely unrelated to the Let’s Move campaign.

Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, says that the IRS tax break favors “breast-pumping working mothers” over “stay-at-home nursing moms” and says the government doesn’t need to promote breastfeeding, calling Michelle Obama’s breastfeeding promotion “junk science.” In a hilarious Fox News video, conservative Sandy Rios argues that employers should in no way be expected to provide space for breast milk pumping. (You and I may know that you can’t take Fox seriously — but many people do.) Of course Sarah Palin felt the need to jump on the Obama + breastfeeding bashing train too.

The Year in Hate & Extremism, 2010 [Southern Poverty Law Center]

Hate groups topped 1,000 for the first time since the Southern Poverty Law Center began counting such groups in the 1980s. Anti-immigrant vigilante groups, despite having some of the political wind taken out of their sails by the adoption of hard-line anti-immigration laws around the country, continued to rise slowly. But by far the most dramatic growth came in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement — conspiracy-minded organizations that see the federal government as their primary enemy — which gained more than 300 new groups, a jump of over 60%.

Taken together, these three strands of the radical right — the hatemongers, the nativists and the antigovernment zealots — increased from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 in 2010, a 22% rise. That followed a 2008-2009 increase of 40%.

What may be most remarkable is that this growth of right-wing extremism came even as politicians around the country, blown by gusts from the Tea Parties and other conservative formations, tacked hard to the right, co-opting many of the issues important to extremists. Last April, for instance, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed S.B. 1070, the harshest anti-immigrant law in memory, setting off a tsunami of proposals for similar laws across the country. Continuing growth of the radical right could be curtailed as a result of this shift, especially since Republicans, many of them highly conservative, recaptured the U.S. House last fall.

My Son, the Pink Boy []

Anti-gay organizations are clear about why boys like Sam need to change. But Dr. Phil’s muddled message reflects a broader, mostly unspoken cultural bias in America — even among Americans who are accepting of gay people — that femmy boys are somehow nebulously bad (though no one can actually articulate why). Dr. Phil — or NARTH — isn’t making a stink over girls who wear jeans and play soccer. So what, exactly, is wrong with a boy who likes Barbie?

America, talk to me. I’m all ears. And if you can’t think of an un-muddled answer, then think about this: Everywhere — on playgrounds and in homes across America, in Disney movies and on national television, on high school and college campuses — pink boys are the brunt of jokes, made to feel inferior, mocked until they take their own lives. Feminine boys are among the last people it’s OK for our culture to hate.

Indeed, one of the most popular arguments against letting boys express their feminine sides is that people will make fun of them. Which makes me wonder: should we hide who we are because people are mean? Or should we — parents, teachers, bystanders, infotainment talk-show hosts — stand up and say it’s not acceptable to make fun of people who are different?

Maternity Leave & Human Rights [New York Times/Motherlode]  

The 90-page report, “Failing its Families: Lack of Paid Leave and Work-Family Supports in the US,”
looks at realities known to all American parents — ie “little or no paid family leave after childbirth or adoption, employer reticence to offer breastfeeding support or flexible schedules, and workplace discrimination against new parents, especially mothers” — and describes them as human rights violations. The lack of such policies have “grave health, financial and career repercussions” for parents, the organization concludes, and urges reforms that will bring the U.S., which is now “an extreme outlier” in line with the rest of the world. At the moment, the report explains:

at least 178 countries have national laws that guarantee paid leave for new mothers, and more than 50 also guarantee paid leave for new fathers. More than 100 offer 14 or more weeks of paid leave for new mothers — including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The 34 members of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), among the world’s most developed countries, provide on average 18 weeks of paid maternity leave, with an average of 13 weeks at full pay. Additional paid parental leave for fathers and mothers is available in most OECD countries.

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