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Ted Cruz, Condoms And Bathroom Politics

By Niels Lesniewski, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz was in a groove in Iowa Monday, weighing in on issues that underscore his efforts to appeal to socially conservative voters in the nation’s first caucus state.

The Texas Republican did so by blasting the Department of Education for allowing a transgender student to use a girl’s locker room — and even weighed in on the availability of prophylactics in America, soundbites that could have been lead news in their own right on most any other day.

But it was Cruz’s response to a question about access to contraceptives that generated perhaps the most buzz.

“Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America,” Cruz told a crowd in Bettendorf, Iowa, as CNN and other outlets reported. “When I was in college we had a machine in the bathroom; you put 50 cents in and voila!”

Cruz argued that Democrats have conflated Republican opposition to abortion rights with opposition to contraception. “Now listen, I have been a conservative my entire life. I have never met anybody, any conservative who wants to ban contraceptives,” Cruz said.

Democrats counter that GOP-backed legislation could inhibit access to some forms of contraception.

“His insistence that condoms are a substitute for the contraception many women need to prevent unintended pregnancies, and for other health reasons, shows he hasn’t got a clue when it comes to women’s health,” said Kaylie Hanson, the Democratic National Committee’s director of women’s media. “This is no laughing matter for millions of women who deserve access to the very health care that could be threatened if he were president, including survivors of rape and incest.”

But for more conservative voters, Cruz’s underlying point could very well resonate above the rhetoric. And the same might prove true of his criticism of a Department of Education ruling that a school district in Illinois ran afoul of Title IX in not allowing a transgender student to use a women’s locker room.

In response to an inquiry from Roll Call, the Cruz campaign said the senator was referring to a Nov. 2 administrative ruling by the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights.

“The District has honored Student A’s request to be treated as female in all respects except her request to be provided access to the girls’ locker rooms at the School,” the statement of facts in that matter said, as outlined in a letter from an Education Department office in Chicago to Township High School Superintendent Daniel Cates.

“(G)iven Student A’s stated intention to change privately, the District could afford equal access to its locker rooms for all its students if it installed and maintained privacy curtains in its locker rooms in sufficient number to be reasonably available for any student who wants privacy,” the letter said. “Here the totality of the circumstances weighs in favor of the District granting student A equal access to the girls’ locker rooms, while protecting the privacy of its students.”

Cruz was having none of that. “Look, my 5-year-old daughter Catherine — she understands the difference between boys and girls. Now, if a local school board tried that, parents in Iowa would throw them out of office in a heartbeat,” Cruz said.

Cruz made the argument in favor of local control of education, including when it comes to decisions about gender identity of student-athletes.

“It’d be real simple if a local school board said, ‘You know what, your little daughter’s got to shower with little boys in junior high,’ you wouldn’t sit still for a minute,” Cruz told the Iowa town hall audience.

In response to the department’s letter, the district said it would continue to seek a solution to the locker-room issue but warned against using it as a wedge issue.

“We celebrate and honor differences among all students and we condemn any vitriolic messages that disparage transgender identity or transgender students in any way. We believe that this particular moment can be one of unification as we strive to create environments that ensure sensitivity, inclusiveness and dignity for ALL students,” the district said in a statement.

©2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at the the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank


NYPD Limits Use Of Condoms Seized From Sex Workers As Evidence

By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK — Condoms no longer will be seized from sex workers for use as evidence in prostitution cases, police announced Monday in a move that officials say should help prevent the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases among people at high risk of infection.

The policy change is the latest effort by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his police commissioner, William J. Bratton, to revamp some of the policing tactics of the previous administration, which were blamed for the souring of police-community relations.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” de Blasio said after Bratton announced the condom decision. “A policy that actually inhibits people from safe sex is a mistake and is dangerous.”

Although advocates of the change call it a positive step, they say it does not go far enough toward protecting victims of human traffickers, whose captors could still refuse to give them condoms for fear the prophylactics could be used as evidence by police.

The new policy applies only to three crimes related to the sex trade: prostitution, prostitution in a school zone and loitering for the purposes of prostitution. In those cases, Bratton said condoms will be treated as personal property and returned to individuals upon their release from custody and will not be considered evidence.

Condoms confiscated in sex-trafficking cases will continue to be used as evidence, said Bratton, calling the move a “reasonable approach” that would encourage safer sex without hampering efforts to build cases “against the vast criminal enterprise associated with prostitution.”

“It’s very exciting the New York Police Department is taking this issue seriously, but we believe it needs to be expanded,” said Sienna Baskin, co-director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York.

Baskin said advocacy groups would continue pressing for a policy that would stop police from seizing condoms as evidence in any prostitution-related crime. “That would really send a very clear message that people are safe to carry condoms,” she said.

Still, the change announced Monday marks a victory for groups that have battled more than a decade to prevent the seizure of condoms from sex workers, a practice that is common around the world and that has been the subject of studies by health and human rights groups. A 2012 report by Human Rights Watch on the issue quoted sex workers in New York City as saying police routinely stopped and searched them, often commenting on the number of condoms they were carrying and leading many to believe there were legal limits on the carrying of condoms.

“The cops say, ‘What are you carrying all those condoms for? We could arrest you just for this,’” one sex worker, identified in the report as Pam G., told Human Rights Watch.

Since that report, San Francisco and Washington have altered their policies to limit the use of condoms as evidence in prostitution cases, said Emma Caterine, a community organizer for Red Umbrella Project, a New York advocacy group.

Caterine said she hoped New York’s move would encourage other major cities to follow suit and motivate state lawmakers to pass a bill introduced last year barring the use of seized condoms as evidence in most prostitution cases.

Critics of condom seizures say the practice is particularly absurd in cities, such as New York, with huge condom distribution programs aimed at preventing AIDS. New York City health officials give out about 40 million condoms each year.

But changing police policy on condom seizures is challenging because sex workers tend to represent marginalized members of society, Caterine said.

“It’s targeting especially lower-income women and transgender women,” Caterine said, adding that police have been known to search and confiscate condoms from women who are not sex workers but who are “profiled” as sex workers because of where they are walking or how they look.

“These people have had problems getting their voices heard by policymakers,” she said. “I hope we’re slowly making strides at changing that.”

AFP Photo/John Moore

Cuba Sells Condoms After Expiration Dates To Address Shortage

By Juan O. Tamayo, The Miami Herald

Hoping to resolve a shortage of condoms that has sparked complaints around Cuba, the island’s public health system has approved the sale of more than one million prophylactics with apparently expired dates.

Pharmacy sales personnel must explain to the buyers that the condoms are good and simply have the wrong expiration dates, said a report Saturday in Vanguardia, the newspaper of the Communist Party in the central province of Villa Clara.

A Vanguardia report April 3 on the shortage said that the government agency in charge of certifying medical items in 2012 had noticed erroneous expiration dates on the “Moments” prophylactics imported from China.

The agency ordered the that the condoms be repackaged with the correct dates, the newspaper reported. But the state-run enterprise repackaging the more than a million condoms in stock does not have enough workers to process the 5,000 condoms per day required just in Villa Clara province.

Vanguardia did not publish the “wrong” dates, but its report hinted that they showed the prophylactics had expired or would soon expire. The shelf life of condoms is very long, it said.

“Although the lots are in optimal conditions, under the certificate of the Center for the State Control of Medicines and Medical Equipment the condoms could not be sold without the new expiration date, December of 2014,” Vanguardia reported Saturday.

“Due to the irregularities in the re-packaging, which has provoked prolonged absences of the prophylactics throughout the country, the Public Health Ministry authorized the sale of the ‘Moments’ condoms in their current packages,” on April 4, the newspaper added.

Several Cuban bloggers commented on the shortage long after April 4, with some noting that it could lead to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

The Cuban government, meanwhile, also published a list of companies around the world that are authorized to ship packages to the island, a business hit routinely with complaints of lost packages, high prices and outright fraud.

The list “will allow those who send these types of shipments from abroad to confirm that the agency they plan to use is among those authorized to carry out those operations with Cuba,” said a report in the government-controlled Cubadebate website.

The U.S. companies listed were: Wilson Int; Service Inc; Machi Community Services; Va Cuba; Caribe Express; Vía Cuba; Flor Caribe Inc; Caribbean Family And Travel Services Inc; Aztec Worldwide Airlines Inc; Procurements Systems Inc; Crowley Logistics Inc; Frontline Cargo Logistic; International Port Corp; Ez Shipping Llc; Centrotrading Llc; and V.I.P INTL INC.

The list, compiled by Cuba’s customs agency, also included Cugranca, a Spanish firm as approved to provide delivery and currency exchange services for people in the United States.

JTF Guantanamo photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gino Reyes