FDA to consider 'pink Viagra'

WASHINGTON -- A panel of federal advisers soon will wrestle with a question that has bedeviled poets, philosophers and generations of frustrated men: What do women want?

That enigma will be part of a Food and Drug Administration committee's deliberations next month when it considers endorsing the first pill designed to do for women what Viagra did for men: boost their sex lives. A German pharmaceutical giant wants to sell a drug with the decidedly unsexy name "flibanserin," which has shown prowess for sparking a woman's sexual desire by fiddling with her brain chemicals.

Even before the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee meets June 18 to consider the request, the prospect of the drug's approval has triggered debate over whether the medication, like others in the pipeline, represents a long-sought step toward equity for women's health or the latest example of the pharmaceutical industry fabricating a questionable disorder to sell unnecessary, and potentially dangerous, drugs.

"Achieving a happy and healthy sex life can be a real and important problem for some women," said Amy Allina of the National Women's Health Network, a Washington-based advocacy group. "But we have lots of questions about the 'pink Viagra.' "

Former women's league star dies

ROCKFORD, Ill. -- A former star of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League who helped inspire the lead character in the movie "A League of their Own" has died.

The Riverside County, Calif., coroner said May 21 that Dorothy Kamenshek died of natural causes May 17 at her home in Palm Desert, Calif. She was 84.

Kamenshek played for the Rockford Peaches from 1943 to 1953. The left-handed infielder was named in the top 100 female athletes of the century by Sports Illustrated.

The Ohio native, who also went by the names Dottie and Kammie, was among the players who were the basis for Dottie Hinson, a character played by Geena Davis in the 1992 movie about women's professional baseball in the 1940s.

Cleric urges ban on women's sports

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- A senior cleric has urged the Saudi government to uphold a ban on women's sports in the kingdom in the face of increasing demand to ease the restrictions.

Sheik Abdul Karim al-Khudhair said in a statement Sunday that sports are "corrupting" and "satanic" for women. Instead, he urged women to stay at home.

Al-Khudair is a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, which is in charge of the kingdom's Islamic affairs.

The Saudi Education Ministry recently announced that starting next school year it will introduce a new curriculum in the country's schools that includes programs to provide social skills and creativity. Some critics have demanded that sports also be introduced to girls schools.

Women challenge mosque traditions

WASHINGTON -- On May 15, five women took off their shoes and walked across the carpet at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque, one of the Washington region's largest Islamic centers.

For weeks, they had planned for this moment, to stand behind the men in the main prayer hall of the Falls Church, Va., mosque as an act of protest. Usually, women at the mosque pray in segregated spaces away from the men, but these women, who came from outside the Dar Al-Hijrah community, wanted to make a point.

It was the third time this year that the women had staged a protest at a Washington area mosque, and, as before, the conflict began almost immediately. By the end, angry words would be exchanged, the police called.

Such "pray-in" protests have sprung up in Muslim communities across the country in the past decade as women's rights advocates and feminist Muslims have agitated for more shared spaces in mosques.

The activists have compared their efforts to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, but those who oppose them say the issue is not that simple. At mosques where such protests have taken place, for example, the longtime female attendees often are happy with the arrangement because praying in a segregated space allows them privacy and modesty. It is only protesters barging in from outside their communities who clamor for change, they say.