Georgia Judge Jails Muslim Woman Over Head Scarf
Dionne Walker, The Associated Press: "A Muslim woman arrested for refusing to take off her head scarf at a courthouse security checkpoint said Wednesday that she felt her human and civil rights were violated. A judge ordered Lisa Valentine, 40, to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court, said police in Douglasville, a city of about 20,000 people on Atlanta's west suburban outskirts." Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Martha Putney, Historian of Blacks, Is Dead at 92

By William Grimes

Martha S. Putney, who became one of the first black women to serve in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II and who went on to write pioneering works of history on black Americans in the military, died Dec. 11 in Washington. She was 92 and lived in Washington.

The death was confirmed by her son, William M. Putney Jr.

Mrs. Putney, whose life was featured prominently in “The Greatest Generation,” Tom Brokaw’s popular history of the war and the unsung Americans who took part in it, entered the armed services in 1943 to better her prospects in life. She left the service determined to tell the story someday of how black Americans had contributed to the war. This she did in “When the Nation Was in Need: Blacks in the Women’s Army Corps During World War II” (1992) and “Blacks in the United States Army: Portraits Through History” (2003), which she edited.

Martha Settle was born in Norristown, Pa., where her father supported his eight children as a laborer. After winning a scholarship to Howard University in Washington, she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1939 and a master’s degree in history in 1940.

Failing to find a job as a teacher in Washington’s public school system, she toiled, unhappily, as a statistical clerk with the government’s War Manpower Commission. The future looked bleak.

“My hometown offered nothing; only nonblacks were allowed to teach or work in the public schools,” Mrs. Putney told the reference work Contemporary Authors in the 1990s. “The corps, which was then less than a year old, promised an opportunity to become a commissioned officer. Though I had a master’s degree in history, I refused to go any further south for a job, so the promise of a commission was the best option available.”

The Army assigned her to its basic training center in Des Moines, where she drilled female recruits. She later commanded a unit of black medical technicians at Gardiner General Hospital in Chicago. As told in Mr. Brokaw’s book, she encountered racial barriers along the way and, with low-key persistence, pushed back against them. When the arrival of a white military band forced out the base’s black band, for example, her agitation to have it reinstated reverberated upward to the White House, where Eleanor Roosevelt intervened.

After leaving the WAC in 1946 with the rank of first lieutenant, she returned to her old government job. In 1948, she married William M. Putney, who died in 1965. She is survived by their son, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Attending the University of Pennsylvania on the G.I. Bill, Mrs. Putney earned a doctorate in European history in 1955 and went on to a long teaching career at Bowie State College (now Bowie State University) in Maryland, where she was chairwoman of the history and geography department until 1974, and at Howard University in Washington, where she taught for nine years before retiring.

Her first book, “Black Sailors,” a study of black merchant seamen and whalers before the Civil War, was published in 1987. At her death, she was working on a history of black Americans in combat from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf war.

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Women's rights activist beheaded in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Gunmen broke into the house of a women's rights activist in the volatile northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Thursday and beheaded her, police said.

Iraqi Interior Ministry troops conduct inspections at a checkpoint in the southern Iraqi city of Basra in May.

Iraqi Interior Ministry troops conduct inspections at a checkpoint in the southern Iraqi city of Basra in May.

The victim was identified as Nahla Hussain, the leader of the women's league of the Kurdish Communist Party. She was alone in the house at the time of her death.

It is not known what the circumstances were that led to the attack. Violence against women has been an ongoing problem in Iraq.

In an unrelated development, authorities this week seized between 20 and 30 Interior Ministry officials allegedly linked to an offshoot of Saddam Hussein's Baathist movement, a ministry spokesman said Thursday.

The arrests come ahead of next month's Iraqi provincial elections, a watershed event that's generating an uptick in civil unrest and political infighting.

The detained have links to the al-Awda party -- an underground successor to Hussein's Baath party, the movement that ruled Iraq for 35 years but later was banned after Hussein was overthrown in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

There were no details about what the detained officials were accused of doing.

It is the latest problem facing the Interior Ministry -- which oversees policing, border enforcement and internal security but has been criticized by Iraqi and U.S. officials for its inefficiency, corruption, and infiltration by Shiite militia groups during the Sunni-Shiite violence in 2006 and 2007.

According to Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman, the highest-ranking person taken into custody was a brigadier general, and the others were low-ranking officers. He said 23 officers were detained, and judicial authorities were questioning them.

A second Interior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said at least 32 ministry employees were arrested between Monday and Wednesday, although he had no information about the reasons for the arrests.

The arrests, made inside and outside the ministry, were carried out by an elite force that reports directly to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the official said. Critics have accused al-Maliki of taking unilateral action against political rivals.

At least two generals, including Gen. Ahmed Taha Abu Ragheef, the head of the ministry's Internal Affairs department and a traffic police general, were among the arrested, the official said.

Ragheef, appearing on state TV, denied the arrest and said he took part in the investigation that led to the arrests. Khalaf said Ragheef was not among those arrested.

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Another opinion on Caroline Kennedy - "Send in the Celebrities"

A free United States Senate seat is a very fine thing, especially since Gov. David Paterson does not seem to be expecting a holiday envelope from the lucky winner, unlike some governors we could mention. However, Paterson does want someone who could come up with around $50 million for a statewide campaign in 2010, and Kennedy has been supersuccessful at raising money for New York City’s public schools and other good causes. Although it’s important to note that asking for money to buy books for poor children is not quite the same thing as asking for money to buy 60-second TV commercials about how great you are.

It is a tribute to the raging mediocrity of New York politics that while many people have expressed reservations about giving the Senate job to an untested, hitherto publicity-shy political novice, their protests often wind up with: “Why pick Caroline Kennedy when we could have — um ...”

In New York, two kinds of homegrown politicians tend to rise to the top of the heap. The smart, hard-working ones have sharp elbows and impossible egos. (I’m remembering Ed Koch on a long-ago visit to Berlin, waving at the East German guards at the checkpoint and yelling: “I’m here! It’s me! It’s me!”) The charming, easy-going ones tend to have the I.Q. of a cucumber.

As Adam Nagourney and Nicholas Confessore wrote in The Times, Kennedy has a reputation for “quiet competence and dignity.” If nothing else, that would be a novelty.

My biggest concern about the Kennedy-for-senate boom is that the whole idea sounds as if it had been inspired by telephone conversations between Caroline and her Uncle Ted, followed by encouraging calls from her cousin Robert. We should always be leery of plans that develop during excited phone calls among family members. I remember a time when my sisters and I got extremely enthusiastic about renting a stretch limo at Christmastime and taking everybody on a tour of the holiday lights of Cincinnati. It turned out that unlike fireworks, Christmas lights work best in small doses, unless you have an unlimited appetite for viewing blowup replicas of the Nativity.

People keep asking if Kennedy has the stomach for long campaigns in upstate New York — if she is, in the words of Representative Gary Ackerman of Queens, prepared to “do Utica.” Really, that’s the least of it. The people of Utica are lovely, as long as you don’t have to come up with any specific ideas for resurrecting their city from its century-long swoon. And it’s easy to imagine Kennedy doing a Hillary-like “listening tour,” having round-table discussions about the dairy compact or broadband access while the press corps gently naps in the rear row.

But how much of her life does she really want to spend at fund-raisers for people she suspects will be indicted before they have a chance to cash the checks? How does she feel about admiring butter sculptures at state fairs? I remember watching Hillary tour the fair in Syracuse with her family in tow, stopping at a booth that featured a teeny table with teeny teacups and a sign: “Reserved for the Clintons.” Bill and Hillary, instantly perceiving their duty, pulled up two teeny chairs and plopped right down. Chelsea, who was normally an absolute rock during these events, looked as if she wanted the earth to swallow her up.

It is admittedly not fair that a person with a famous name could get this Senate opportunity instead of some worthy if irritating member of Congress who’s put in the time and paid the dues. But if there’s anything we’ve learned over the last few months, it’s that waiting for life to be fair is a losing proposition. (By the way, we’re approaching the one-month-to-go mark on the George W. Bush Out of Office Countdown calendar. The presidential quote of the week is: “Natural gas is hemispheric. I like to call it hemispheric in nature because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods.”)

Hillary Clinton came out of First Ladyhood and Arkansas and scooped her job away from other more deserving New Yorkers. But she turned out to be terrific at it and a useful reminder that in America there are not only second chances, but thirds and fourths as well. Maybe this will become known as New York’s Midlife Career Change Senate Seat.

If Kennedy wants to succeed Clinton, she’s got every right to give it a shot. If she makes her case successfully, maybe she’ll turn out to like spending her weekends at many variations on the theme of testimonial dinner and sitting at teeny-tiny tables at the state fair. Or she might discover that she has signed up for one long limo tour of the Christmas lights. In which case, it’s only a two-year ride.

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