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                     Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
                       Sept. 7, 1995, V3, #164
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Israel's Population Rises to 5.5 Million

Israel's population rose by 1.1 percent during the first half of 1995, reaching 5.5 million people. According to data supplied by the General Bureau of Statistics, 40 percent of the growth was due to immigration and the remainder of the increase was produced by normal population growth. 133,000 Israeli citizens reside in the territories.

Female Circumcision: Medical Experts Describe it as Barbaric

By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Cairo)

A year ago, the Population Conference in Cairo was shaken by the broadcast of a graphic report about female genital mutilation. Egyptian authorities reacted angrily. So did an unbelieving Egyptian society. They refused to deal with the problem itself and instead attacked the messenger. But efforts continue to try to stop the practice of so-called female circumcision -- a practice medical experts describe as barbaric.

When CNN broadcast a report on the circumcision of a 10-year-old Egyptian girl a year ago, it sent shock waves through Egyptian society. It showed a barber performing the brutal operation at a family celebration.

The authorities temporarily jailed the barber who performed the circumcision and the father of the girl, but also they threatened to prosecute the TV producer in charge of the project.

The head of the Egyptian network of non-government organizations, Aziza Hussein, says her teams spent a lot of time dealing with all the backlash. But, she says the long-standing campaign against female genital mutilation has suffered most from a change of attitude by both the government and its Islamic advisors.

Since the late 1950s, Egypt forbid government-approved midwives and health clinics from performing the surgery to cut or remove the female genitalia.

After the TV report last September, the health minister decided it would be better to allow circumcisions in clinics to protect the child from the unclean methods of barbers and midwives. So he advised hospitals to set aside certain days when families could bring in their daughters.

Sayeed Thabet teaches gynecology at Cairo University and is an outspoken advocate of female circumcision.

His arguments range from using it to control sexual urges in adolescent girls to curbing the spread of disease. He even suggests that circumcision will stop sexual desires sparked by the static electricity of synthetic underwear.

"What is the solution for this problem? The solution for this problem is to wear loose, not tight, loose pants and underwear, made of cotton, not synthetic material, or otherwise circumcise her."

These arguments are rejected by most health experts who also point out that Islam does not sanction female circumcision. Hussein says many Muslim and Christian clerics work with her groups to educate rural families about the health risks.

But now women activists are upset over a religious edict issued by an Islamic scholar who says those who oppose the practice could be executed. The Egyptian human rights organization is suing the Islamic scholar on the grounds his pronouncement has endangered the lives of thousands who are working to end the brutal custom.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 85 million girls between the ages of three and 10 have suffered the pain and indignity of a practice health officials call barbaric. It is performed in more than two dozen African countries, in some parts of the Arabian Peninsula and in Egypt. Its origins are believed to be rooted in African and Pharonic customs.

In Egypt, Hussein says seven out of 10 girls still fall victim to the practice. And they are not all uneducated or poor. "In some quarters where people are educated to a higher degree, it could be reduced to 30 percent. But even if these are the educated people, still 30 percent are still carrying on."

The Women's Conference in Beijing is expected to review the situation on female genital mutilation and the latest strategies for trying to eliminating the practice.

IDF Exempts New Father and Baby from Reserve Duty

When reserve Captain Ariel Cohen showed up for his annual 30 day reserve army duty together with his four month old baby, Avshalom, the IDF sent him home. Cohen had taken a years leave of absence from his job to be at home with his new born son allowing his wife to return to her work as a lawyer.

He received his call up notice to the reserves every man released from mandatory active duty does yearly until age 50. Cohen tried to explain his special circumstances to the Army, but no one quite grasped it and refused to grant him an exemption for this year. Therefore, Cohen should up with his new born son. The IDF got the picture and gave him the exemption.

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