Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd, and Shershah Syed: What You Can Do To Help Women In Pakistan

Who was the biggest loser after last night's decisive Game 5 of the National League Championship Series? Not the Dodgers, who had to fly back to L.A. after losing the series to the 2008 world champion Philadelphia Phillies. Not even that guy who celebrated too much and fell off the roof of a taxi. The real loser is Chuck Todd, the Dodgers fan and NBC political correspondent who made a side bet with Philadelphia loyalist/ABC chief White House correspondent Jake Tapper. But while Todd and the Dodgers felt the sting of defeat last night, the Phils' victory may also be a victory for the women of Pakistan.

A little background: after some spirited Twitter smack-talk between Todd, Tapper, and Tapper's producer, Karen Armstrong, the two correspondents decided on a gentlemanly bet: if the Dodgers won, Tapper would grow out a goatee similar to Todd's. If the Phils won, Todd would have to shave his trademark facial hair. After agreeing on the bet, the men decided on an "opt out" clause: if the loser wasn't willing to mess with his mug (these are TV talking heads, after all), the loser would have to pay $1,000 to the charity of the winner's choice. And after lots (and lots, and lots) of goatee jokes at Todd's expense, winner Tapper is now saying he'd prefer to see the grand go to charity—a sum he plans to match.

Now, there's much to be said about how this bet (and the gleeful response it got in the media) just reinforces the insular, boys' club mentality of D.C. politics. But we love our Fightin' Phils, and love the stupid side bets baseball engenders, and are particularly pleased that Tapper is now using the interest generated from this stupid side bet to draw attention to a very worthy cause:

The culmination of the bet—and Tapper's Twitter campaign to raise even more money for Syed—comes just as NEWSWEEK published a package on the ever-increasing violence in Pakistan, mainly coming from various arms of the Taliban. As you may recall, the Taliban is not big on women's safety, security, or dignity. The escalating tensions in Pakistan, and the increasing presence of anti-women, extremist military groups throughout the country, make it that much more important for women in the region to get compassionate and competent medical care.

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In a July column, the New York Times'sNicholas Kristof cited a U.N. statistic claiming that in Pakistan, a woman dies every 35 minutes because of problems with pregnancy and childbirth. He also illustrates some of Syed's big plans to help lower that rate:

With government support nine years ago, Dr. Shershah started a top-level maternity wing in a public hospital in Orangi, an impoverished Karachi neighborhood that by some reckonings is the largest slum in the world. The hospital now handles 6,500 deliveries a year—yes, 6,500—and accepts women from hundreds of miles away. Several years ago, a half-dead woman came from Baluchistan province—by camel.

In addition, Dr. Shershah is hitting up friends to try to build a new maternity hospital on the grounds of a former madrassa on the edge of Karachi. So far, he has built a wing to repair fistulas free of charge and to train midwives. He says that in five years or so, as the money trickles in, the hospital will be complete.

The National Health Forum, an American-based nonprofit that works to educate health workers, has set up a fund to help Dr. Syed reach his goals. It will receive whatever donations Todd, Tapper, et al. contribute. You can give, too: tax-deductible contributions can be made to Dr. Shershah Syed, c/o National Health Forum, P.O. Box 240093, St. Louis, MO 63024. Put: "Dr. Syed's project" in the subject line of the check. The phone number is 314-255-7409; e-mail is nationalhealthforum@gmail.com.

Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd, and Shershah Syed: What You Can Do To Help Women In Pakistan | News