Since the Obama administration’s late January decision to mandate that Catholic hospitals offer birth control coverage, that long standing and perhaps original American political issue is back under the national spotlight—religious freedom. Fierce debates have emerged at the nation’s oldest Catholic university, where a group of law professors expressed support of the mandate and law student Sandra Fluke was infamously derided by talk-show host Rush Limbaugh for speaking out in favor of the policy. The form of religious freedom championed by the Right, it would seem, is incompatible with women’s health. This latest showdown over contraception, however, is only a small chapter in the tenuous—and, as many argue, outright discriminatory—relationship between the Catholic Church and women. Nowhere is the tension more visible than in the Church’s gender restriction on entering the priesthood, the institution that constitutes the most direct connection between the Church and the communities it serves. Through conversations with priests, activists and historians, Counterpoint set out to uncover the roots of this seemingly outdated and sexist practice, and if the official policy shows any signs of being reversed.
In an award show planned to coincide with this week’s World Economic Forum, the world’s second largest mining company, Brazil’s Vale, was honored as it made the jump to number one, though likely not in the category of its choice. Last week, Vale took home the 2012 Public Eye Award, presented yearly by Greenpeace and the Swiss NGO Berne Declaration to honor the world’s worst corporation.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers finally managed to approve an embargo of Iranian oil, set to go in to effect on July 1. Greece, Spain and Italy had all previously called to postpone the ban, as all three countries import about 20% of their oil from Iran.
Reaction coming out of Iran has been interesting, with some officials echoing the claim that Iran would close off the Strait of Hormuz in the event of any attempt to impede its oil exports. Other officials have expressed confidence in Iran’s ability to develop new markets and diversify its domestic economy. They have openly called for Iran to cut supply to Europe immediately, hoping that a mid-winter oil shut-off would give Europe a bit of a wake up call. Such a shut-off would certainly be harmful to economic recovery efforts, especially considering that some of Europe’s weakest economies would be hardest hit.