three things you should know about

1. welfare and child support. i remember first learning about this in my social welfare policy class last year. i couldn't believe it then, it just seemed so incredulous. now there's a recent new york times article about it. in a nutshell: mother has child and receives welfare benefits. father is out of the picture, to varying degrees. state gets involved to collect child support payments and is successful. and then, instead of giving the money over to the mother, the state keeps that money so that the state can "recoup" the costs of providing the welfare benefits. there are so many things wrong with this system besides the obvious stupidity of the states that don't realize withholding those payments (which are rightfully hers!) can help reinforce the poverty for which that mother turns to the welfare system to alleviate. it's the payments, stupid! read times article here.

2. sexual violence in the eastern congo. while war rape isn't a new phenomenon, the scale and brutality of rape in the eastern congo is horrifying. read this new york times news article. to watch an amazingly moving trailer for a documentary about rape in the congo ("the greatest silence"), click here. while not specifically about the eastern congo, if you are in the united states, urge your senators to support the bi-partisan international violence against women act (s2279). for more information, check out the women's commission for refugee women and children legislative alert.

3. child soldiers. an estimated 250,000 children, sometimes as young as eight years old, are "serving" in armed conflicts around the world. many female child soldiers are forced to serve as sex slaves of military commanders. the united states' state department identifies nine countries where child soldiers are fighting in government forces or goverment-sponsored militias. of those nine, eight are given military financing and support by the united states. the bi-partisan child soldier prevention act (s1175) would restrict military assistance to governments until they end any involvement in the recruitment of child soldiers. please contact your senators today and urge them to support this bill. for more information, human rights watch has a take action page. you can also learn more at the coalition to stop the use of child soldiers website.

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