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By United Press International  |  Jan. 29, 2007 at 6:30 AM
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Official: Women 'birth-giving machines'

TOKYO, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Hakuo Yanagisawa, the health minister of Japan's Shimane Prefecture, in a speech referred to women as "birth-giving machines."

Speaking in front of a gathering of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party Saturday, the 71-year-old health official made the miscue while referring to his nation's welfare and healthcare systems, Kyodo News reported.

"The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed," he said. "Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head, although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines."

During the speech in the city of Matsue, Yanagisawa also called for future efforts to enable increased births in Japan after his ministry revealed a current downward trend last December.

"There are many young people who want to have children," he said. "In order to meet such a wish, we would like to make utmost efforts."

Women lose right to choose ob-gyn gender

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Swedish clinics in Skane, Halland, Blekinge and Kronberg will no longer let women choose the sex of their gynecologists due to discrimination issues.

The ban was implemented after it was deemed unfair to men to allow women to choose women doctors, Sweden's The Local reported.

Patients will now be assigned a doctor of either sex, the Helsingborgs Dagblad reported.

Women who hail from backgrounds with "patriarchal traditions" and victims of sexual assaults will be exceptions to the rule and allowed to request a female gynecologist, the report said.

Key-ring flask causes controversy at USC

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The University of Southern California is getting mixed reviews about its newest product -- a key-ring flask that holds an ounce of liquid.

The miniature stainless steel flask attached to a key-ring is marketed at the university bookstore with the slogan, "For your favorite drink," the Los Angeles Times reported.

"It kind of suggests drinking and driving," a structural engineering major told the USC Daily Trojan. "It's a flask. It's going to be for a shot. You're not going to be pouring Coke in there."

A USC faculty member suggested the flask taught "carrying around alcohol is acceptable and that it's commonplace, which it's not."

Others don't mind the key-ring, the Times said.

"I don't think it's going to promote anything that people aren't doing already," said a biological science major.

A USC bookstore spokesman said sales of the key-ring flask were being re-evaluated.

Bread, water for pupil without lunch money

BROCKWORTH, England, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- An English mother says her 8-year-old daughter was fed bread and water and an overripe banana at school because she did not have her lunch money.

Michelle Williams told the Daily Mail she got a telephone call from Castle Hill Primary School in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, and promised to bring the 3.50-pound (almost $7) fee. But by the time she got there she found her daughter had already been forced to sit with friends while they ate hot meals and she chewed on bread.

"I was quite upset," Courtney Williams said. "I had to sit and watch everyone else eat proper meals and I just had some bread and an old banana with a black skin."

Michelle Williams, a single mother, has applied for free meals for her daughter, but the application is still being processed, the newspaper said.

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