WOMEN’S WORK:

After several years of bickering among UN members over the creation of a new agency for women, Secretary General

Ban Ki-moon

laid out a blueprint in early February for action in the General Assembly.

Charlotte Bunch

, a leader of

GEAR

(Gender Equality Architecture Reform), a coalition of some 300 groups worldwide, and

Julia Greenberg

, associate director of

AIDS-Free World

, an organization that battles women’s vulnerability to the disease, both point to potential pitfalls in the plan, which they and other women’s advocates nevertheless support as a good starting point. The concerns include the limited powers the agency would have in dealing with governments, weaker links to nongovernmental groups than the solid partnership proposed earlier by UN officials and the $500 million budget for the agency, only half of what advocates have demanded.

Now the horse-trading begins. Some developing nations, among them Muslim governments cool to the idea of elevating the role of women in UN work, will want more attention to development funding and other reforms in return for their support for the agency, to be headed by an under secretary general not yet chosen. Hopes are high that the Obama team–reversing Bush’s opposition and working with other states committed to strengthening women’s rights–will lead efforts to hold the line against further whittling away of the agency’s funding and mission. The question now, says Greenberg, is whether countries who want a strong new agency will fight for it.   BARBARA CROSSETTE

BYE BAYH!

Never one for social or political niceties, RNC chair

Michael Steele

declared that Indiana Senator

Evan Bayh

and other centrist Democrats were “running for the hills because they sold out their constituents and don’t want to face them at the ballot box.” In fact, Bayh and other key members of the corporate-friendly DLC did sell their constituents out–with steady support for the free-trade agenda that has battered manufacturing industries.

In the 2008 primary

Barack Obama

and

Hillary Clinton

acknowledged the failure of the free-trade agenda by campaigning in Indiana as critics of NAFTA. Yet Bayh has kept shilling for Wall Street. Bayh made it politically on the power of his last name– his father, Birch, was an iconic figure in politics–and his prodigious fundraising from business interests. (A member of the Banking Committee, he collected more than $1.2 million from securities and investment interests during this cycle.) But Democrats won’t be able to win his Indiana seat or key open seats in Illinois, Missouri and Ohio with a soft centrist message. They will do so only with a populism that addresses double-digit unemployment and rapid deindustrialization while telling swing voters they are right to be angry about bank bailouts and insider deals.   JOHN NICHOLS