12-28-20 Wonder Woman 1984: 'Surprisingly robust' US debut for film sequel
The sequel to 2017's superhero hit Wonder Woman has opened in US cinemas, generating "surprisingly robust" ticket sales, according to one industry paper. Variety said Wonder Woman 1984's $16.7m (£12.3m) debut was "the biggest opening weekend haul in the coronavirus era". The Warner Bros film was made available on the HBO Max streaming service on the same day it opened in more than 2,000 cinemas in the US and Canada. Its distributor said HBO Max's viewing hours had tripled as a consequence. According to Warner Media, nearly half of the platform's retail subscribers viewed Wonder Woman 1984 when it became available on Christmas Day. It said HBO Max's total viewing hours on 25 December were more than three times that of a typical day in the previous month. The original Wonder Woman made more than $100m at the US and Canada box office when it opened in more than 4,000 cinemas in June 2017. Its sequel's opening weekend takings were a fraction of that record-breaking amount, yet still exceeded box office projections, according to its distributor. Its Christmas weekend takings were comparable to the opening weekend haul of Tenet, the only other major studio release to reach cinemas since March. Christopher Nolan's film made $20.2m when it opened over the long Labor Day weekend in the US and Canada in September after three days of previews. Overall Wonder Woman 1984 made $36.1m over the Christmas weekend worldwide, taking its total global takings to $85m. Directed by Patty Jenkins, the film sees Israeli actress Gal Gadot reprise her role as the DC Comics superhero against a 1980s backdrop. In a statement on Sunday, Warner Media said it had decided to "fast-track development" on a third instalment in the fantasy franchise. Warner Bros chairman Toby Emmerich said Jenkins and Gadot would both return to "conclude the long-planned theatrical trilogy". Christmas Day also saw the Walt Disney Company make Pixar's latest animation Soul available on its Disney+ streaming service. The film also opened in Chinese cinemas, where both it and Wonder Woman 1984 were soundly bested by Hong Kong action sequel Shock Wave 2.
12-28-20 'She is beautiful but she is Indian': The student who became a Welsh bard at 19
An Indian student won acclaim in Wales as a bard and became the first woman to get a law degree from University College London. And although racial prejudice brought a heartbreaking end to a three-year relationship she never went home, writes Andrew Whitehead. Dorothy Bonarjee was Indian by birth, English by upbringing, French by marriage - and Welsh at heart. To put it another way, she was the perpetual outsider, sometimes by chance, and at other times by choice. Even the moment of her greatest achievement in 1914 - winning one of Wales's most prestigious cultural prizes while still a teenager - is notable above all because she was so obviously not Welsh. In India, Dorothy Bonarjee and her family stood apart, by class, culture and religion. They were upper-caste Bengali brahmins, but Dorothy spent her childhood living a simple life on the family estate hundreds of miles away from Bengal in Rampur, near India's border with Nepal. They were also Christians - her grandfather served as a Scottish pastor in Calcutta (now Kolkata) after being converted by celebrated Scottish missionary Alexander Duff. Dorothy's life changed utterly in 1904 when - along with her brothers, Bertie and Neil - she was sent to London for her schooling. She was just 10 years old. Dorothy's parents - both of whom had spent time in Britain - wanted their children to be, like them, part of the "England returned" who were increasingly running India on behalf of the imperial power. Among the Indian elite, this British experience had "something of the snob value of a peerage in Great Britain," one of the Bonarjee clan remarked. A photograph survives of the three young Bonarjees at about the time they arrived in London. Dorothy looks demure in a white dress with a black ribbon in her hair. Bertie, her older brother, is in a suit and tie. It's a statement of how English they had become - even though the world around would always see them as Indian.
12-27-20 How Ugandan Nasa scientist Catherine Nakalembe uses satellites to boost farming
As a keen badminton player Ugandan Catherine Nakalembe wanted to study sport science at university but a failure to get the required grades for a government grant set her on a path that led her to Nasa and winning a prestigious food research prize, writes the BBC's Patience Atuhaire. When Dr Nakalembe tried to explain to a Karamojong farmer in north-eastern Uganda how her work using images taken from satellites hundreds of kilometres above the Earth relates to his small plot, he laughed. While she uses the high-resolution images in her pioneering work to help farmers and governments make better decisions, she still needs to get on the ground to sharpen up the data. In other words, from space you cannot tell the difference between grass, maize and sorghum. "Through a translator, I told the farmer that when I look at the data, I just see green. "I had printed a picture, which I showed him. He was then able to understand that… you need to see the farm physically to make those distinctions," the academic tells the BBC. She is a softly spoken woman with a radiant demeanour, and it is hard to picture her trekking for hours in the heat of semi-arid Karamoja, looking to tease out the granular distinctions that can only be spotted on the ground. This is especially important in farming areas dominated by small holders who may be planting different crops at different times, leading to a huge number of variables. That complexity makes it almost impossible for most authorities to monitor. Dr Nakalembe, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland's geographical sciences department in the US, uses the satellite data to study agriculture and weather patterns. That information is combined with data gathered on the ground about the crops and their condition to build a model that learns to recognise patterns to help make predictions. It was this that won her the 2020 Africa Food Prize alongside Burkina Faso's Dr André Bationo for his work on fertiliser. The scientist, who also heads the Africa section of Nasa's food and agriculture programme, explains: "From the air, you can see which area is built-up, bare, has vegetation or water. "We are also able to tell what is cropland or what is forest. Because we have a 30-year record of what cropland looks like, we can tell what is healthy, what isn't or which part has improved."
12-24-20 Karima Baloch: Activist's family mourns a 'mountain of courage'
Karima Baloch, a Pakistani human rights activist living in exile in Canada, was found dead on Sunday. Police say they have no reason to suspect foul play, but Karima's family and supporters say her death at least warrants closer inspection. The BBC spoke to her family about a woman they called "a mountain of courage". In 2008, Karima Mehrab - known as Karima Baloch - was standing in front of a judge in a Pakistani court on charges connected to her activism. The judge told her he was minded to give her a more lenient sentence because she was a woman. Karima declined. "She said, 'If you are going to punish me, you should do that on the basis of equality - do not give me that concession because of my gender,'" her brother Sameer recalled. It was just another example of an "extraordinary" woman's dedication to her beliefs, he said. Karima was used to clashing with the Pakistani authorities. She had been a thorn in their side ever since her early twenties, when she stood at the front of a rally for missing people in Balochistan clutching a picture of one of her missing relatives. Back then, the authorities didn't know her name. But in the following years she rose up the ranks of activists fighting for independence for Balochistan - a resource-rich but restive province in the southwest. In 2006, Karima joined the central committee of the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO) - a group she would go on to lead. Her family knew the dangers that came with such a role. When Karima was a child, her mother talked about the struggle, Sameer said, and they had uncles on both sides who were involved in the movement. They also knew what could happen. Pakistan's armed forces have been accused of suppressing the struggle through force, "disappearing" activists - a charge they've denied multiple times. In the coming years, a number of Karima's relatives would go missing and turn up dead. "I was afraid something would happen to her," said Sameer, who left Pakistan in 2006 and joined his sister in Canada in 2017. "I could not forgive myself if something had happened. But that grew into pride because I saw what she did."
12-9-20 The woman behind China's Chang'e-5 Moon mission
A 24-year-old female space commander has become a viral sensation on Chinese social media for her work on the Chang'e-5 Moon exploration programme. Despite being the youngest commander at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, Zhou Chengyu is known at work as "Big Sister" as a sign of respect. The Chang'e-5 mission is China's third successful Moon landing in seven years. Ms Zhou was in charge of the rocket connector system - described as a pivotal role. The young astronaut has been a trending topic on Weibo since Chinese state media highlighted her as one of the women involved in the successful launch of the Chang'e-5 lunar probe on 23 November. Her story in particular has resonated with the public given her young age. Social media users have been celebrating her "brilliance" and referring to her as a "source of pride" for the country. Several people jokingly reflected on their own achievements, commenting how far behind in life they were in comparison. The huge amount of interest in the Guizhou Province native has not appeared to have had much of an effect on her, however. According to news site Duocai Guizhou Net, Ms Zhou declined repeated requests for interviews as she does not wish to let fame get in the way of her work. The aim of the Chang'e-5 - named after the Chinese moon goddess - is to gather lunar rocks and soil to help scientists learn more about the moon's formations. If successful, it would be the first in more than 40 years to bring lunar samples back to Earth, and will make China the third country to do so after the United States and the Soviet Union. The mission is part of Beijing's push to become a space superpower, with the Chinese state media casting the "space dream" - as President Xi Jinping calls it - as one step in the path to "national rejuvenation". For China, space exploration is seen as a way to display its growing technological might, as well as to demonstrate itself as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
11-30-20 Black Lives Matter founders: We fought to change history and we won
The year 2020 will be remembered for a lot of things - not least the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement around the world. The organisation has led huge street rallies and high-profile campaigns against racism and police brutality. Now the three women who founded the movement have told the BBC they believe it has transformed politics. "Black people alongside our allies stood up to change the course of history and we won," said Alicia Garza. Garza and her BLM co-founders, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, spoke as part of the BBC 100 Women Masterclass 2020, a digital live event of masterclasses, big interviews and guests on 30 November. The trio started the Black Lives Matter movement in the US in 2013 after the not guilty verdict against George Zimmerman, who shot dead unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Protests erupted again this year after the killing of George Floyd, who died in May after a police officer knelt on his neck during his arrest in Minneapolis. "Black Lives Matter, after seven years, is now really in the DNA and the muscle memory of this country," said Garza. "We all have watched how our community members, our family members, are being murdered on camera. "There are so many ways in which, even as this movement was exploding for the second time, major news outlets continue to focus on the wrong thing. "Over and over again, the burden and responsibility for violence gets placed at our feet, but nobody talks about the violence that our communities are experiencing both at the hands of government neglect, but also at the hands of police officers. "Now we have a new element which is vigilante and white supremacist violence." Despite the ongoing struggle, the founders of BLM struck a cautiously optimistic note, especially when speaking about the defeat of Donald Trump in the US election. Black women in particular have been credited for playing a major role in President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
11-30-20 Biden announces all-female senior press team
US President-elect Joe Biden has appointed an all-female senior press team, in what his office claims is a first in the country's history. The team will be led by Kate Bedingfield, former deputy campaign communications director for Mr Biden. Jen Psaki, who was President Barack Obama's White House communications director, will be press secretary. Mr Biden has promised to build a diverse administration that reflects the country. "I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women," Mr Biden said in a statement. "These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better." The two top press aides to Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will be Symone Sanders and Ashley Etienne. Unlike cabinet positions, the press office does not require Senate confirmation. Following his election win, Mr Biden has been unveiling his first choices for top cabinet positions. Last week, he said his selection is "a team that reflects the fact that America is back". He added that his team would keep the country "safe and secure" while leading the world. Also on Sunday, Mr Biden sustained hairline fractures in his "mid-foot" after he slipped while playing with his dog Major. A statement from his physician, Dr Kevin O'Connor said it is likely Mr Biden will be required to wear a walking boot "for several weeks". He is set to be sworn into office on 20 January. On Monday he is set to receive the first presidential daily briefing, a top secret intelligence brief. It was made possible by the announcement a week ago that the transition process had begun.
11-30-20 Nemonte Nenquimo: The indigenous leader named 'environmental hero'
An indigenous leader from the Ecuadorean Amazon is one of the winners of the Goldman environmental prize, which recognises grassroots activism. Nemonte Nenquimo was chosen for her success in protecting 500,000 acres of rainforest from oil extraction. She and fellow members of the Waorani indigenous group took the Ecuadorean government to court over its plans to put their territory up for sale. Their 2019 legal victory set a legal precedent for indigenous rights. For Nemonte Nenquimo, protecting the environment was less a choice than a legacy she decided she had to carry on. "The Waorani people have always been protectors, they have defended their territory and their culture for thousands of years," she tells the BBC. 1. Number around 5,000 people. 2. Traditional hunter-gatherers organised in small clan settlements. 3. Among the most recently contacted peoples: reached in 1958 by US missionaries. 4. Waorani territory overlaps with Yasuni National Park, one of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems. 5. 80% of the Waorani now live in an area one-tenth the size of their ancestral lands. Ms Nenquimo says that when she was a child she loved to listen to the elders tell stories of how the Waorani lived before they were contacted by missionaries in the 1950s. "My grandfather was a leader and he protected our land from incursions from outsiders, he literally spearheaded that defence by confronting intruders, spear in hand." Ms Nenquimo says that from the age of five, she was encouraged by the elders to become a leader herself. "Historically, the Waorani women have been the ones to make the decisions, the men went to war," she explains. "Waorani women made the men listen to them and it wasn't until we had contact with the evangelical missionaries that we were told that God created Adam and that Eve came second and was created from Adam's rib, that's when the confusion [about women's role] started." But Ms Nenquimo insists that the role of women in Waorani society continues to be a key one. "When it comes to taking decisions, the women pull no punches, and everyone listens up".
11-29-20 American football: Sarah Fuller makes history as first woman in a Power 5 game
Sarah Fuller has become the first woman to play in a Power 5 match - the elite level of collegiate American football. Fuller, 21, took to the field for the Vanderbilt Commodores as a placekicker in a road game against the Missouri Tigers in the city of Columbia. "I just want to tell all the girls out there that you can do anything you set your mind to," she said afterwards. Fuller was called in because many players were self-isolating due to the coronavirus outbreak in the US. During Saturday's match, which her team lost 41-0, she wore a helmet with the slogan Play Like A Girl on the back - in support of a non-profit group encouraging girls to play sports. "History made," tweeted the Southeastern Conference (SEC), showing the moment Fuller stepped on to the pitch to kick off at the start of the second half. There was some social media criticism at the length of the kick but coach Derek Mason said it was an executed plan - a squib kick intended to prevent a return. Given the score, it was her only opportunity. The Power 5 refers to five conferences, including the SEC, considered the elite of collegiate football. The SEC has 14 university teams. College football is massive in the US, supplying the vast majority of players who go on to the NFL. Several women have appeared at lower levels of collegiate football. Tonya Butler was the first to kick a field goal, for West Alabama in 2003. Fuller, who US media report is 6ft 2in (187cm), is a regular goalkeeper for the women's soccer team at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee. Ahead of Saturday's game, tennis great Billie Jean King - who is also remembered as the winner the Battle of the Sexes tennis match against a man in 1973 - tweeted: "Women belong in the game!"
11-28-20 Climate change: The woman watching the ice melt from under her feet
Cassidy Kramer is part of the Inupiaq community, who have relied on Alaska's land for thousands of years. Like her father, she goes hunting and fishing to provide for the people around her. But Cassidy fears that her way of life could be gone before she starts a family of her own. Around her, the landscape is changing as temperatures warm and the ice melts. Now it's up to her, to hold on to her traditions as best she can.
11-14-20 Kim Ng: Miami Marlins hire first female general manager in MLB history
Kim Ng has become the first female general manager in Major League Baseball (MLB) history after being hired by the Miami Marlins. She is also the first Asian-American general manager in MLB history. Ng, 51, has 30 years of experience in the major leagues, having previously worked for the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. "When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a major league team," she said. "But I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals." The Yankees won three World Series titles during Ng's four years as assistant general manager there. She has previously interviewed for the general manager role at several major league sides. Since 2011, Ng has worked in the MLB commissioner's office as senior vice-president for baseball operations. The Marlins started as an expansion franchise in 1993 and won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. They reached the play-offs for the first time since 2003 this year in a season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, beating the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card Series before losing to the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series. "This challenge is one I don't take lightly," added Ng, who succeeds Michael Hill after he was not retained following the 2020 season. "My goal is to bring championship baseball to Miami. I am both humbled and eager to continue building the winning culture our fans expect and deserve." In baseball, the general manager is typically responsible for building the team through player recruitment, trades and development and also oversees hiring staff. "We look forward to Kim bringing a wealth of knowledge and championship-level experience to the Miami Marlins," said Marlins chief executive Derek Jeter, who played for the Yankees while Ng worked at the club. Susan Spencer, who took over the role at the Philadelphia Eagle
11-10-20 Women continue to change the face of US politics
Much of the focus of the US election has been the battle for the presidency between two white men, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. But the nationwide ballot also saw Kamala Harris set to become the first woman vice-president and a record number of women voted into Congress - the part of the US government that writes and passes laws. Here's how the numbers break down ahead of Congress's new term at the beginning of next year. 1. At least 135 women will have a say in Congress in 2021. Women, who make up just over half of the US population, currently make up just under a quarter of Congress's two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, when the 117th congressional term begins in January, an unprecedented 135 women, possibly more, will serve across both houses - with 103 Democrats and 32 Republicans voted in so far, according to Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP). Women will take up just over a quarter of the 535 seats - 25.2% - up from the current 23.7%. These totals could rise further, though, with the results of a number of contests still outstanding. This year's figures are part of a long-running trend towards better representation for women, with most previous Congresses breaking the record that came before - some years more dramatically than others. Now, for the 15th time in 16 Congresses, the proportion of women across the two chambers will rise. Republican women have made particular progress this election after struggling to replicate the recent success of the Democrats. In the mid-term elections in 2018, almost three-quarters of the women running for Congress were Democrats. But from next year, while there are still more Democrat women than Republican women, the Republican Party will have its highest number of female Congressional representatives ever to serve. So far 32 Republican women will sit across both houses, according to CAWP, surpassing the party's previous record of 30 in 2004. They could up their numbers further in some of the outstanding contests. For example, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler - appointed to the Senate last year to fill a vacant seat - will take on Democrat Raphael Warnock in the January run-off election in Georgia. In the House of Representatives, the Republicans have almost doubled the number of women - from 13 to 24 - the result of concerted efforts by the party to recruit a more diverse range of candidates.
11-8-20 Kamala Harris just shattered two glass ceilings
Let's take a moment to reflect on the historic nature of the 2020 presidential election results. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the president-elect and vice president-elect of the United States, and the sound you're hearing is the collective exhale of millions of Americans who've spent the last four years dreaming of a White House free of Donald Trump. Because of the breakneck pace of news the past few years, it might be difficult to stop and savor the moment. When you're constantly waiting for another deranged tweet to drop, another menacing executive order to be issued, another group of people to be threatened, taking a beat to absorb good news becomes a luxury. But it's not: It's your right. And it's the only way to recharge for the ongoing fight against the enduring forces that brought us Trump. Despite Democratic control of the Senate looking increasingly unlikely and Justice Amy Coney Barrett's hurried Supreme Court confirmation still stinging, there is much to celebrate in this moment. First and foremost, Trump has joined the club of one-term presidents. He has consumed too many of our days since he rode down the escalator of his tower in 2015 and announced his bid for the highest office in the land. Finally, Americans will be able to reinvest the time we spent worrying and obsessing about his unchecked power into more worthwhile pursuits, like local politics, community organizing, community service, improving relationships with others and ourselves, and even personal joys that became a casualty of Trump's America. Biden is a fundamentally decent man who's fit for the job of commander-in-chief. Electing a white, upper class, cisgender, heterosexual man as president is hardly historical, but what is historical is the election of Sen. Kamala Harris as the first female vice president. The groundbreaking nature of her election has been somewhat buried, and perhaps since we came so close to electing a woman president in 2016, it feels like a bit of an inevitability. A repayment of a debt. But it's incumbent upon us to recognize this enormous first. For the first time ever, a woman — a Black and Indian woman — is set to be the second most powerful person in a country still deeply steeped in white supremacy. She's not perfect — many have issues with her resume as a prosecutor. But it's undeniable she has now shattered not one but two glass ceilings in one fell swoop. Soon America will have a madame vice president, and with one former vice president just getting elected president, there's no reason she couldn't be next. To be clear, celebrating the end of President Trump is not an invitation for progressive Americans to disengage. It does not mark the end of the so-called "resistance" that emerged with his first and only successful election. If anything, it's our cue to engage deeper, because the forces that gave rise to Trump aren't going anywhere. Just as white supremacy didn't magically disappear with the civil rights movement, nor will the brash and bullying politics of the Trump years end when he exits 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In January we'll have our first congresswoman who is a fervent believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory. We'll have another who showed up to an event for former presidential candidate Beto O'rourke carrying a loaded gun to protest his stance on gun control. If you're a white person who believes people of color feel safe in America now that Trump is out, you're not paying attention. If you're a white person who believes the election of a Black female vice president will heal our racial divide, you are ignoring why this divide still exists and exempting yourself from the collective anti-racist work that needs to be done.
11-8-20 Kamala Harris: The many identities of the first woman vice-president
Kamala Harris savoured the moment she became the first woman, and the first black and Asian American, to be vice-president-elect, with a very hearty laugh. In a video posted to her social media she shares the news with President-Elect Joe Biden: "We did it, we did it Joe. You're going to be the next president of the United States!" Her words are about him but the history of the moment is hers. Just over a year ago, as the senator from California hoping to win the Democratic nomination for presidency, she launched a potent attack on Joe Biden over race during a debate. Many thought it inflicted a serious blow on his ambitions. But by the end of the year her campaign was dead and it was Mr Biden who returned the 56-year-old to the national spotlight by putting her on his ticket. "It is a big reversal of fortune for Kamala Harris," says Gil Duran, a communications director for Ms Harris in 2013 and who has critiqued her run for the presidential nomination. "Many people didn't think she had the discipline and focus to ascend to a position in the White House so quickly... although people knew she had ambition and star potential. It was always clear that she had the raw talent." What she has demonstrated from the moment she took the national stage with her pitch for the presidency - is grit. Born in Oakland, California, to two immigrant parents - an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father - her parents divorced when she was five and she was primarily raised by her Hindu single mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist. She grew up engaged with her Indian heritage, joining her mother on visits to India, but Ms Harris has said that her mother adopted Oakland's black culture, immersing her two daughters - Kamala and her younger sister Maya - within it. "My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters," she wrote in her autobiography The Truths We Hold. "She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women."
10-15-20 I Am Greta: The coming of age movie wrapped up in a super-hero flick
There are many extraordinary things about the new documentary I Am Greta. The first is that the film happened at all. Its director Nathan Grossman had never made a documentary feature before. The former film student was curious when he heard, in 2018, that 15-year-old Swedish girl Greta Thunberg had decided to bunk off school to sit alone outside the country's parliament in Stockholm as part of what she was calling a "climate strike". He started filming a few days later. At first he shot in a low-quality mode on his camera to save space on memory cards, thinking he would be lucky if her story made a short feature for the local news. But, within weeks, children around the world had started their own climate strikes. Arnold Schwarzenegger was retweeting Thunberg's posts and Grossman had switched to full high definition. He continued to film Thunberg and her father at every twist and turn of the adventure that unfolded over the next year. And what an adventure. Thunberg herself said it could be a movie but it would be a very surreal one "because the plot would be so unlikely". Just being along for the ride is exciting enough, but I Am Greta does much more than that. What Grossman has made is a coming of age movie wrapped up in a super-hero flick. This is the story of how a troubled and lonely child discovers her hidden powers and uses them to change the course of the world. The whole thing is just so unlikely. It turns out that this small, rather dour girl with pigtails has a preternatural charisma. As we unravel the paradox of why that is, we begin to understand what is so special about Thunberg. Most people don't realise how unforgiving documentaries are on their subjects: If you pretend to be something you are not, you will be found out. The only way to be "good" at films like this is simply to be yourself. Watching the film, you realise Thunberg is so fascinating because she is utterly authentic. She isn't doing this for appearances, she isn't doing it because she wants fame or attention, she is doing it because she has no choice. She feels compelled to do something - anything - to try to get the world to take climate change seriously.
10-8-20 Louise Glück wins Nobel Prize for Literature
This year's Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to the US poet Louise Glück. Glück was recognised for "her unmistakable poetic voice, that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal" said the Swedish Academy, which oversees the award. The Academy added she was "surprised" when she received their phone call. Glück, born 1943 in New York, lives in Massachusetts and is also professor of English at Yale University. The Academy's permanent secretary Mats Malm said he had spoken to Gluck just before making the announcement. "The message came as a surprise, but a welcome one as far as I could tell," he said. She is the fourth woman to win the prize for literature since 2010, and only the 16th since the Nobel prizes were first awarded in 1901. The last American to win was Bob Dylan in 2016. Gluck won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for her collection The Wild Iris and the National Book Award in 2014. Her other honours include the 2001 Bollingen Prize for Poetry, the Wallace Stevens Award, given in 2008, and a National Humanities Medal, awarded in 2015. Her poetry focuses on the painful reality of being human, dealing with themes such as death, childhood, and family life. She also takes inspiration from Greek mythology and its characters, such as Persephone and Eurydice, who are often the victims of betrayal. The Academy said her 2006 collection Averno was a "masterly collection, a visionary interpretation of the myth of Persephone's descent into Hell in the captivity of Hades, the god of death". The chair of the Nobel prize committee, Anders Olsson, also praised the poet's "candid and uncompromising" voice, which is "full of humour and biting wit". Her 12 collections of poetry are "characterised by a striving for clarity", he added, comparing her with Emily Dickinson with her "severity and unwillingness to accept simple tenets of faith". Glück was editor of The Best American Poetry 1993 and she served as poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress from 2003-04. The prize is given to the person who has "produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction".
10-7-20 Nobel prize in chemistry goes to the pioneers of CRISPR gene editing
Emmanuelle Charpentier at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Germany and Jennifer Doudna at the University of California, Berkeley, have won this year’s Nobel prize in chemistry for pioneering the genome editing tool CRISPR-Cas9. The pair were recognised for their work on the widely used technique, which has applications for new medicines, crops and more. “This is a technology method that can provide humankind with great opportunities,” said Claes Gustafsson of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, speaking as the prize was announced today at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. “I realised I was very emotional,” said Charpentier, on hearing she had won the prize. Only five women have received the award before. Asked about her view on being part of the first all-female team to win, she said she considered herself a scientist foremost. However, she hoped it would send a “positive message” to young women pursuing a career in science. Charpentier paved the way for CRISPR, which enables scientists to identify a specific piece of DNA in a cell and to edit that DNA, an approach that could be used to prevent disease in humans or make food healthier. As Gustafsson noted, it can be used to fix genetic damage, such as the gene mutation that causes sickle-cell anaemia. The development of CRISPR came when Charpentier was studying the bacterial species Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes numerous illnesses in humans. She identified a molecule known as tracrRNA, a defence mechanism which cleaves the DNA of invading viruses. In 2011, her work was published in the journal Nature, catapulting her to celebrity. That year she met Doudna, an expert in RNA, the molecule similar to DNA that carries information in our cells. Together the scientists recreated the bacterium’s DNA cleaving ability in a lab, which the Nobel committee described as “genetic scissors in a test tube”. Gene editing was possible before their discoveries, but has become much cheaper, faster and more accessible as a result of their work.
10-7-20 Gene-editing tool CRISPR wins the chemistry Nobel
The ‘molecular scissors’ were developed just eight years ago. Turning a bacterial defense mechanism into one of the most powerful tools in genetics has earned Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier the Nobel Prize in chemistry. The award for these genetic scissors, called CRISPR/Cas 9, is “a fantastic prize,” Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said at an Oct. 7 news conference held in Stockholm by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to announce the prize. “The ability to cut the DNA where you want has revolutionized the life sciences. We can now easily edit genomes as desired — something that before was hard, or even impossible.” “The genetic scissors were discovered just eight years ago, but have already benefited humankind greatly,” she said. “Only imagination sets the limits for what this chemical tool … can be used for in the future. Perhaps the dream of curing genetic diseases will come true.” She later amended the statement to say that ethics and law are also important to determine what can and should be done with the tool, as some human gene editing is extremely controversial. Only five other women have ever won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. “I wish that this would provide a positive message specifically to the young … girls who would like to follow the path of science, and I think to show them that women in science can also be awarded prizes, but more importantly that women in science can also have an impact through the research that they are performing,” Charpentier said in response to a question during the news conference. The two will split prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor, about $1.1 million. The tool, a programmable molecular scissors known as CRISPR/Cas9, has been used by bacteria and archaea for millions to billions of years to fight viruses (SN: 4/5/17).
10-7-20 Scientists win historic Nobel chemistry prize for 'genetic scissors'
Two scientists have been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing the tools to edit DNA. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna are the first two women to share the prize, which honours their work on the technology of genome editing. Their discovery, known as Crispr-Cas9 "genetic scissors", is a way of making specific and precise changes to the DNA contained in living cells. They will split the prize money of 10 million krona (£861,200; $1,110,400). Biological chemist Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, commented: "The ability to cut DNA where you want has revolutionised the life sciences." Not only has the women's technology been transformative for basic research, it could also be used to treat, or even cure, inherited illnesses. Prof Charpentier, from the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, said it was an emotional moment when she learned about the award. "When it happens, you're very surprised, and you think it's not real. But obviously it's real," she said. On being one of the first two women to share the prize, Prof Charpentier said: "I wish that this will provide a positive message specifically for young girls who would like to follow the path of science... and to show them that women in science can also have an impact with the research they are performing." She continued: "This is not just for women, but we see a clear lack of interest in following a scientific path, which is very worrying." During Prof Charpentier's studies of the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes, she discovered a previously unknown molecule called tracrRNA. Her work showed that tracrRNA is part of the organism's system of immune defence. This system, known as Crispr-Cas, disarms viruses by cleaving their DNA - like genetic scissors. In 2011, the same year she published this work, Prof Charpentier began a collaboration with Prof Doudna, from the University of California, Berkeley. The two had been introduced by a colleague of Doudna's at a cafe in Puerto Rico, where the scientists were both attending a conference. And it was on the following day, during a walk through the streets of the island's capital, San Juan, that Prof Charpentier proposed the idea of joining forces.
9-27-20 France racism: Paris to commemorate slave rebellion figure
Paris is to put up a statue of a black woman involved in a 1802 rebellion against slavery on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. The woman, named only Solitude, was captured and possibly executed. Opening a public garden in her honour on Saturday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called Solitude a "heroine" and a "strong symbol". France's history of slavery has been under new scrutiny, in part because of the US Black Lives Matter protests. There has been soul-searching over public commemoration of colonial figures such as 17th-Century statesman Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who codified overseas slavery and is remembered by a statue outside the national parliament in Paris. But President Emmanuel Macron has spoken against removing statues or names of controversial figures, offering instead a "clear-headed look at our history and our memory". Very little is known for sure, with just one brief written mention in a 19th-Century history of Guadeloupe, according to Unesco. That account records that Solitude, a mixed-race woman, was arrested among "a band of insurgents" during an uprising against slavery - which had been reinstated by Napoleon after being abolished during the French Revolution. She was sentenced to death, the history notes, but allowed to give birth before being "tortured" - an ambiguous term which could mean she was indeed put to death, through flogging for example. Solitude was portrayed in a 1972 work of fiction by French writer André Schwarz-Bart and a statue already honours her in Les Abymes, Guadeloupe. The Solitude Garden is located on Place du Général Catroux in north-western Paris, where a statue will be erected in time. While a statue of a black woman would be rare in the French capital, it would not be unprecedented. The US entertainer and French Resistance agent Josephine Baker (1906-75) has been honoured by both a square and a monument.
9-26-20 Social media censorship in Egypt targets women on TikTok
The government cites conservative values as the reason for policing music and dancing clips on the trendy video-sharing platform. Looking at Haneen Hossam's TikTok account, one might wonder why her content landed the Egyptian social media user in jail. In one post, she explains for her followers the Greek mythological story of Venus and Adonis, which is also a Shakespeare poem. Mawada al-Adham does similarly anodyne things that are familiar to anyone who observes such social influencers, like giving away iPhones and driving a fancy car. They are just two of the nine women arrested in Egypt this year for what they posted on TikTok. Mostly, their videos are full of dancing to Arabic songs, usually a genre of electro-pop, Egyptian sha'abi folk music called mahraganat, or festival tunes. The clips feature a typically TikTok style — with feet planted, hands gesticulating and eyebrows emoting. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has put TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, in its sights with another escalation against Beijing. The U.S. Commerce Department announced in September that TikTok, and another Chinese-owned app, WeChat, would be blocked from U.S. app stores. In Egypt, the arrests are about dictating morality rather than any kind of geopolitical struggle or international tech rivalry. But what exactly the government finds legally objectionable about these women's online content is ambiguous. "They themselves would have never imagined that they would go to jail and be sentenced for what they were doing because what they're doing is basically what everyone else does on social media," said Salma El Hosseiny of the International Service for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization based in Geneva. "Singing and dancing as if you would at an Egyptian wedding, for example." Hosseiny said that these women were likely targeted because they're from middle- or working-class backgrounds and dance to a style of music shunned by the bourgeoisie for scandalous lyrics that touch on taboo topics. "You have social media influencers who come from elite backgrounds, or upper-middle class, or rich classes in Egypt, who would post the same type of content. These women are working-class women," she added. "They have stepped out of what is permitted for them." They were charged under a cybercrime law passed in 2018, as well as existing laws in the Egyptian Penal Code that have been employed against women in the past. Yasmin Omar, a researcher at The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, said the cybercrime law is vague when it comes to defining what's legal and what isn't. "It was written using very broad terms that could be very widely interpreted and criminalizing a lot of acts that are originally considered as personal freedom," she said. "Looking at it, you would see that anything you might post on social media, anything that you may use [on] the internet could be criminalized under this very wide umbrella." Egypt's cybercrime law is part of a larger effort by the government to increase surveillance of online activities. As TikTok became much more popular during the pandemic, prosecutors started looking there too, Omar said. "When I write anything on my social media accounts, I know that it could be seen by an official whose job it is to watch the internet and media platforms," said Omar, who added that that surveillance often leads to widespread repression. "The state is simply arresting whoever says anything that criticizes its policy, its laws, its practices ... even if it's just joking. It's not even allowed."
9-26-20 Philippines Troll Patrol: The woman taking on trolls on their own turf
The Philippines is playing a key role in the wave of disinformation sweeping the world. So-called troll farms are being used to create multiple fake social media accounts that post political propaganda and attack critics. But a group of people calling themselves the Troll Patrol are trying to use their own tactics against them, as the BBC's Howard Johnson reports. In 2016, Gina - not her real name - and others, watched with alarm as a group of Catholic schoolgirls in the Philippines came under attack from online trolls. The girls had been filmed and photographed standing on a street in the capital Manila in their uniforms, chanting: "Marcos is no hero! Marcos is no hero!" They were angry that former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos had just been buried in a nearby hero's cemetery with military honours. In the 21 years he ruled, billions of dollars of public money went missing while thousands were arrested and tortured for opposing his regime. But his family have remained both politically influential and popular and are closely aligned to the current President Rodrigo Duterte. Within hours of the photos being posted on the school's Facebook page, and then widely reshared, comments began to appear defending the Marcos legacy and attacking the girls' actions. Some of them were from genuine accounts, but many were from pro-government trolls using fake accounts. "If Marcos is no hero, I would say most of you are no virgins and that's the trend of young girls nowadays," said one. There were also rape threats. "We're talking about kids here. Nobody was doing anything about it," says Gina. "We realised that we should beat them at their own game." Gina and a group of equally-concerned individuals, who would go on to be known as the "Troll Patrol", took action. Much like the trolls, the group began creating fake Facebook accounts - Facebook doesn't require photo ID proof of identity - so they could defend the girls without risking personal attacks themselves. They created scores of accounts whose posts were designed to counter the narrative of the online pro-government bullies through logic and reasoning. Night-after-night the group would log into Facebook scanning for threatening posts or abusive behaviour and begin posting their counter-comments.
9-22-20 Nasa outlines plan for first woman on Moon by 2024
The US space agency (Nasa) has formally outlined its $28bn (£22bn) plan to return to the Moon by 2024. As part of a programme called Artemis, Nasa will send a man and a woman to the lunar surface in the first landing with humans since 1972. But the agency's timeline is contingent on Congress releasing $3.2bn for building a landing system. Astronauts will travel in an Apollo-like capsule called Orion that will launch on a powerful rocket called SLS. Speaking on Monday afternoon (US time), Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said: "The $28bn represents the costs associated for the next four years in the Artemis programme to land on the Moon. SLS funding, Orion funding, the human landing system and of course the spacesuits - all of those things that are part of the Artemis programme are included." But he explained: "The budget request that we have before the House and the Senate right now includes $3.2bn for 2021 for the human landing system. It is critically important that we get that $3.2bn." The US House of Representatives has already passed a Bill allocating $600m towards the lunar lander. But Nasa will need more funds to develop the vehicle in full. Mr Bridenstine added: "I want to be clear, we are exceptionally grateful to the House of Representatives that, in a bipartisan way, they have determined that funding a human landing system is important - that's what that $600m represents. It is also true that we are asking for the full $3.2bn." In July 2019, Mr Bridenstine told CNN that the first woman astronaut to walk on the Moon in 2024 would be someone "who has been proven, somebody who has flown, somebody who has been on the International Space Station already". He also said it would be someone already in the astronaut corps. At the time of this interview, there were 12 active woman astronauts. They have since been joined by five other female Nasa astronauts who graduated from training earlier this year. But it remains unclear whether they can fulfil the criteria in time to fly on the first landing mission in 2024.
9-19-20 Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Obituary of the Supreme Court justice
US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the history-making jurist, feminist icon and national treasure, has died, aged 87. Ginsburg became only the second woman ever to serve as a justice on the nation's highest court. She struggled against blatant sexism throughout her career as she climbed to the pinnacle of her profession. A lifelong advocate of gender equality, she was fond of joking that there would be enough women on the nine-seat Supreme Court "when there are nine". She did not let up in her twilight years, remaining a scathing dissenter on a conservative-tilting bench, even while her periodic health scares left liberal America on edge. Despite maintaining a modest public profile, like most top judges, Ginsburg inadvertently became not just a celebrity, but a pop-culture heroine. She may have stood an impish 5ft, but Ginsburg will be remembered as a legal colossus. She was born to Jewish immigrant parents in the Flatbush neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York City, in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression. Her mother, Celia Bader, died of cancer the day before Ginsburg left high school. She attended Cornell University, where she met Martin "Marty" Ginsburg on a blind date, kindling a romance that spanned almost six decades until his death in 2010. "Meeting Marty was by far the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me," Ginsburg once said, adding that the man who would become her husband "was the first boy I ever knew who cared that I had a brain". The couple married shortly after Ginsburg's graduation in 1954 and they had a daughter, Jane, the following year. While she was pregnant, Ginsburg was demoted in her job at a social security office - discrimination against pregnant women was still legal in the 1950s. The experience led her to conceal her second pregnancy before she gave birth to her son, James, in 1965. In 1956, Ginsburg became one of nine women accepted to Harvard Law School, out of a class of about 500, where the dean famously asked that his female students tell him how they could justify taking the place of a man at his school.When Marty, also a Harvard Law alumnus, took a job as a tax lawyer in New York, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School to complete her third and final year, becoming the first woman to work at both colleges' law reviews. Despite finishing top of her class, Ginsburg did not receive a single job offer after graduation. "Not a law firm in the entire city of New York would employ me," she later said. "I struck out on three grounds: I was Jewish, a woman and a mother." She wound up on a project studying civil procedure in Sweden before becoming a professor at Rutgers Law School, where she taught some of the first classes on women and the law.
9-19-20 Belarus protests: Women try to unmask those detaining protesters
In Belarus, it's now almost six weeks since the election in which President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a much disputed victory. Daily demonstrations against him have followed and so too have clashes with security forces. More than 1,000 people have been detained with many of them emerging with stories of being tortured. Most of the detentions are carried out by masked men wearing clothes that give no indication of who they are and what organisation they belong to. Fed up with the constant harassment, this week female protesters started taking matters into their own hands trying to identify the men and make them accountable for their actions.
9-10-20 The teenage Dutch girls who seduced and killed Nazis
During World War Two, the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands turned three teenage girls into fierce resistance fighters. Truus Oversteegen, Freddie Oversteegen and Hannie Schaft have been remembered for their technique of luring collaborators into the forest for them to be executed.
9-6-20 The daring nun who hid and saved 83 Jewish children
Two Jewish girls from Alsace found themselves in great danger when Germany invaded France 80 years ago. But while their parents and younger sister were caught and murdered, they survived - with dozens of other Jewish children - thanks to the bravery of a nun in a convent near Toulouse. Twelve-year-old Hélène Bach was playing in the garden with her younger sister, Ida, when they saw a military truck approaching and rushed inside. The two girls and their mother had left their home in Lorraine, north-eastern France, after the German invasion in May 1940 and started travelling towards the "free zone" in the south of the country. To reduce the risk of the whole family being caught, it had been decided that the father, Aron, and oldest daughter, Annie, would make the journey separately. But when Aron and Annie were arrested in 1941 and taken to a detention camp near Tours, Hélène's mother rented a house nearby. And they were still there a year later, when the German soldiers came driving up the road. Hélène and eight-year-old Ida ran into the kitchen to warn their mother. "My mother told us to run - to hide in the woods," Hélène says. "I was holding my little sister by the hand but she did not want to come with me. She wanted to go back to my mother. I could hear the Germans. I let her hand go and she ran back." Isolated in the woods, Hélène hid until she felt the coast was clear. Then she crept back to the house and found some money her mother had left on the table. "She knew I would come back," she says. Hélène went to stay with a friend she'd made in the area. She never saw her mother or younger sister again. Hélène's older sister, Annie, had her own narrow escape. After a year at the camp near Tours, she succeeded in escaping through some fencing and running away. Aged 16, Annie succeeded this time in making the journey alone to her aunt's home in the southern city of Toulouse, but even there she wasn't safe. While her aunt's family were not officially registered as Jews and could pretend to be Catholics, this wasn't an option open to Annie. One day in the autumn of 1942, the police rang at the door "They ordered, 'Show your family book and all your children, we want to check!'" she says. "The luck of my life is that my cousin, Ida, had gone to buy bread - that's why sometimes I believe in miracles. So my aunt said this is Estelle, Henri, Hélène and, pointing at me, Ida."
7-25-20 Rosalind Franklin centenary: 'She would have been totally amazed'
Scientist Rosalind Franklin would have been "totally amazed" that 100 years after her birth she is being commemorated, according to her sister. She is best known for her pioneering work which guided Francis Crick and James Watson to unlock DNA's secrets. But far more of her short career was spent unravelling the molecular structures of coal and viruses. Jenifer Glynn, 90, said she would have been pleased if her career "encourages girls into science". Rosalind Franklin was one of five siblings who grew up in London. She secured a place at the University of Cambridge to study chemistry in 1938, and charted her life there through weekly letters home. Mrs Glynn, who lives in Cambridge, said: "She always wanted the proof of things - while she was a good all-rounder at school, it was clear from the start she was going to be a scientist. "There was no feeling in the family or at the university that it was odd for a woman to study science." Most of her time at Newnham College was taken up with her studies, but once World War Two broke out she described interrupted nights spent in the college air raid shelters and taking her turn as a fire watch warden. Mrs Glynn said before her "sadly early death" aged 37 in 1958, she worked across biology, chemistry and physics, with a "focus on research that mattered to society". "I think she would be totally amazed at the fact that 100 years after her birth there's such commemorations," she added. "She would have also been amazed at the idea she has become a feminist icon - it was not in her mind at all. "She was aware that it was harder for women, but wasn't trying to blaze a trail, although nothing would have pleased her more than the fact that perhaps it encourages girls into science." Newnham College and the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge, which holds her scientific papers, are marking the centenary of her birth on 25 July.
7-14-20 The woman leading the first Arab interplanetary mission
The United Arab Emirates is sending a spacecraft, Hope, to Mars. The mission aims to find out more about how the Red Planet became the barren, dusty place it's known to be today, by studying its weather and climate. The probe has taken six years to build. Sarah Al-Amiri, the scientist in charge of the mission, spoke to BBC Science Correspondent Rebecca Morelle.
7-7-20 Iran's female gamers face challenges to stay online
In Iran, online video gaming was popular even before the pandemic, and with so many people staying at home the popularity of video games and streaming them online has jumped. The country's government says a third of gamers are women, and for some of Iran’s female professional gamers, the pandemic has made the hurdles and challenges they are face more acute.
6-25-20 Mary Jackson: Nasa to name HQ after first black female engineer
Nasa is to name its headquarters in Washington DC after its first black female engineer, Mary Jackson. Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said Jackson had helped to break down barriers for African Americans and women in engineering and technology. The story of Mary Jackson was told in the 2016 film Hidden Figures. Born in Hampton, Virginia, she died in 2005. Last year, Nasa renamed the street outside its headquarters as Hidden Figures Way. "Hidden no more, we will continue to recognise the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made Nasa's successful history of exploration possible," Mr Bridenstine said in a statement. "Mary W Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped Nasa succeed in getting American astronauts into space," Mr Bridenstine added. "Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology. The move comes at a time of introspection across the US about historical injustices suffered by African Americans. The recent death in police custody of George Floyd triggered protests around the world and renewed demands for an end to institutional racism. Nasa began recruiting some college-educated African American women in the 1940s as "human computers", but they experienced both racial and gender discrimination at work. Mary Jackson was recruited in 1951 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics which was succeeded by Nasa in 1958. She worked under Dorothy Vaughan - whose story was also told in Hidden Figures - in the segregated West Area Computing Unit at Langley, Virginia.
6-19-20 Malala Yousafzai completes Oxford University exams
Human rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai has expressed her "joy and gratitude" after finishing her final exams at Oxford University. The 22-year-old, who survived a shot to the head by Taliban soldiers, studied politics, philosophy, and economics. Tweeting earlier, she said: "I don't know what's ahead. For now, it will be Netflix, reading and sleep." Ms Yousafzai was attacked for saying girls should be allowed to stay in education. She was shot in the head, neck and shoulder while travelling home from school after writing an anonymous diary about life under the extremists. After recovering from her near-fatal injuries, she and her family relocated to Birmingham. In 2014, she became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, at the age of 17. Three years later she accepted a place to study at Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford. Ms Yousafzai tweeted two pictures as she announced the news that she completed her degree. In one, she is celebrating with her family in front of a graduation cake. The other was taken after a "trashing", a tradition at the university where students are covered with food and confetti after completing their exams.
6-14-20 Kathy Sullivan: The woman who's made history in sea and space
Making headlines is never something that has motivated Kathy Sullivan. Already in the history books as the first US woman to complete a spacewalk in 1984, the 68-year-old found herself in the news again this week after becoming the first woman to travel almost seven miles (11km) to reach the lowest known point in the ocean. The two missions, total opposites in the minds of some, represent two extremes of a lifelong passion for Dr Sullivan: to understand the world around her as much as possible. "I was always a pretty adventurous and curious child with interests wider and more varied than the stereotype of a little girl," Sullivan told the BBC in a phone interview from the Pacific Ocean. She was born in New Jersey in 1951 and spent her childhood in California. Her father was an aerospace engineer who, along with her mother, would always encourage their two children to think freely and join in with discussions. "They really fed our curiosity on anything we were curious about or interested in," she says. "They were our best allies to explore that interest further and see where it might take us: it might die out in a couple of days, it might be something that became our best hobby or it might turn into the central focus of our career." By the time they were five or six, it was already clear her brother wanted to grow up to fly aeroplanes. Sullivan, meanwhile, became fascinated by maps and learning more about the interesting places on them. "Both of our careers have basically been remarkably wonderful fulfilments of those early dreams," she reflects. As a little girl, Sullivan was already devouring every newspaper, magazine and television report she could find on the subject of exploration. It was a time when Jacques Cousteau was making pioneering undersea discoveries and the Mercury Seven were propelling the image of astronauts into America's mind. "I saw these people - they happened to all be men, that didn't bother me... I saw there are people in the world that have continually inquisitive, adventurous lives: they're going to places no-one's been and they have this store of knowledge and they're learning more." "My way of thinking about it never crystallised into: I want that job, I want that title or that label," she explains about her ambitions as a teenager. "But what I knew really clearly was what I wanted my life to be like, I wanted it to have that mixture of inquiry and adventure and competency."
6-10-20 How Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton films can 'inspire' young women
Becoming, the Netflix documentary about Michelle Obama, was one of the streaming site's Top 10 films when it was released a few weeks ago. Now another American First Lady, Hillary Clinton, has her own docuseries - Hillary. The four-hour show, consisting of interviews given by Clinton to documentary maker Nanette Burstein, explores all of Hillary Rodham Clinton's life, from her activism in the 1960s, her marriage to ex-US President Bill Clinton, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and her unsuccessful attempt to become US President in 2016. Hillary puts forward the theory that the next generation of female leaders were galvanised by her election loss into standing for, and voting in, the Congress elections of 2018; with a record-breaking 103 women, including activists such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, elected or re-elected to the House of Representatives. "I know what I mean to many women, I hear it almost every day, someone will say it to me," Clinton told BBC News. "It's a heavy responsibility." "I've tried to make my own decisions in keeping with who I am and what I stand for, but we still need role models, guides along the trail, 'if someone can do it then I can do it' - that sort of mentality. I'm very aware of it." Becoming documents former first lady Michelle Obama's recent international book tour, as well as her meeting young African American women to encourage them in their ambitions. According to the film's director, Nadia Hallgren, she had "never seen anything like that energy before." "What women seem to identify with," Hallgren adds, "was just her stories of being told you can't do something or being constantly underestimated throughout life. This idea that if you're a woman, if you're not male, if you're not white, if you don't tick all these boxes, that you don't belong at that table. "I think that there is a huge need and hunger worldwide for stories like hers. Hearing Mrs Obama talk about obstacles that she encountered throughout her life, and being able to reflect on the now, taught me so much about my own life and obstacles that I've encountered." Nanette Burstein, the director of Hillary, agrees that the visibility of the former first ladies is important, "particularly for the young".
5-15-20 Women leaders eschew 'macho-man' politics in COVID-19 response
New Zealand, Taiwan, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway all have notably low rates of fatalities and Germany stands out in central Europe for its low death rate. The seven countries have something else in common: All are led by women. The day Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern imposed a strict nationwide lockdown in March, no one in New Zealand had died from the coronavirus. Compare that to the United Kingdon: 335 people had already died by the time Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the British public to stay home. Like many world leaders, Ardern held daily press conferences where she appealed to New Zealanders to unite in their battle against the virus. "We are all in this together," she told them. Ardern streamed Facebook live videos from her sofa at home, apologizing for her casual attire. Now, New Zealand is "halfway down Everest," Ardern said last week as she announced measures to ease New Zealand's lockdown. Her "go hard and go early" strategy combined with a warm empathetic manner worked. New Zealand recorded zero new cases of the coronavirus in a series of days last week and Ardern's popularity rating is at an all-time high. But Zoe Marks, a lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School says there's nothing inherently female about this style of leadership. "The fireside chat approach originated with Franklin Roosevelt in the United States. The problem is not that only women can pull it off, it's that men are afraid to really let their guard down and be relatable," Marks said. Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has not been afraid to show a more human side either. Frederiksen posted a video of herself and her partner doing the dishes and singing along during a weekly TV lockdown singalong show. Like New Zealand, Denmark moved quickly to close its borders, then its schools and businesses. Other Nordic countries led by women did likewise, and have seen relatively low death rates from COVID-19. Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, by contrast, took a gamble and shunned the idea of a lockdown, instead trusting the public to maintain social distancing themselves. It remains to be seen if his strategy pays off but currently Sweden's death toll is by far the highest in Scandinavia. Suze Wilson, who teaches leadership at Massey University in New Zealand, says the evidence is mixed on whether men and women govern differently. Some research shows female leaders can be more participative in their approach, she says. "Research shows women are more willing to listen to advice and include different perspectives and try to weigh them up when making decisions," Wilson said.
4-16-20 Give Harriet Quimby her due
The pioneering aviatrix whose greatest feat was overshadowed by the sinking of the Titanic. ate at night on April 14, 1912, as the Titanic blazed toward its frigid destiny somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean, Harriet Quimby was sleeping. The weather off the coast of England had been terrible all week, stormy and overcast. Not good flying weather. And Quimby — who'd been called a "lady bird," "airship queen," aviatrix, newspaper woman, and nicknamed "Dresden China" on account of her fair skin — had one more title she wanted to add to the list. Pioneer. In the early morning hours two days later, on April 16, as every newspaper in the world set their type to announce the "greatest marine horror in history," Quimby stepped into a Blériot XI, a machine her contemporaries still described with that extra syllable, aeroplane. It was cloudy in Dover, but 23 narrow miles of water beckoned and the winds seemed alright. She took off, her goal known only to two female friends and a handful of male ones in order to prevent anyone from beating her to it. When she next touched land an hour and nine minutes later, she was in a fishing village in France, beaming amid a crowd of surprised fishermen, now the first woman to have done what only a handful of men at the time had managed: fly across the English channel. In April 1912, Quimby was already renowned for being the first woman in America to have received her pilot's license, and like Amelia Earhart — that far more famous aviatrix who would follow in her footsteps — she would go on to die dramatically and tragically, doing what she loved. But Quimby has never received the level of recognition she deserves in the American pantheon, despite her extraordinary life. There is no flashy biopic about her spectacular adventures, no airport named in her honor. Literature on her is limited, apart from a smattering of children's books; talk of a potential biography, announced in 2015, has since gone quiet.
4-15-20 The woman who discovered the first coronavirus
The woman who discovered the first human coronavirus was the daughter of a Scottish bus driver, who left school at 16. June Almeida went on to become a pioneer of virus imaging, whose work has come roaring back into focus during the present pandemic. Covid-19 is a new illness but it is caused by a coronavirus of the type first identified by Dr Almeida in 1964 at her laboratory in St Thomas's Hospital in London. The virologist was born June Hart in 1930 and grew up in a tenement near Alexandra Park in the north east of Glasgow. She left school with little formal education but got a job as a laboratory technician in histopathology at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Later she moved to London to further her career and in 1954 married Enriques Almeida, a Venezuelan artist. The couple and their young daughter moved to Toronto in Canada and, according to medical writer George Winter, it was at the Ontario Cancer Institute that Dr Almeida developed her outstanding skills with an electron microscope. She pioneered a method which better visualised viruses by using antibodies to aggregate them. Mr Winter told Drivetime on BBC Radio Scotland her talents were recognised in the UK and she was lured back in 1964 to work at St Thomas's Hospital Medical School in London, the same hospital that treated Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he was suffering from the Covid-19 virus. On her return, she began to collaborate with Dr David Tyrrell, who was running research at the common cold unit in Salisbury in Wiltshire. Mr Winter says Dr Tyrrell had been studying nasal washings from volunteers and his team had found that they were able to grow quite a few common cold-associated viruses but not all of them. One sample in particular, which became known as B814, was from the nasal washings of a pupil at a boarding school in Surrey in 1960. They found that they were able to transmit common cold symptoms to volunteers but they were unable to grow it in routine cell culture. However, volunteer studies demonstrated its growth in organ cultures and Dr Tyrrell wondered if it could be seen by an electron microscope. They sent samples to June Almeida who saw the virus particles in the specimens, which she described as like influenza viruses but not exactly the same. She identified what became known as the first human coronavirus.
3-1-20 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin revealed stars’ composition and broke gender barriers
‘What Stars Are Made Of’ celebrates the life of a pioneering astronomer. It was 1924, and Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was on the verge of a breakthrough. Faint rainbows of starlight, recorded on photographic glass, held secrets to how the universe was put together. If only she could read the starlight’s story. As with every other challenge in her life, Payne-Gaposchkin would not stop. She once went without sleep for 72 hours, struggling to understand what the stars were telling her. “It was an impatience with the ordinary — with sleep, meals, even friendships and family — that had driven her as far back as she could remember,” journalist Donovan Moore writes in his book celebrating the life of Payne-Gaposchkin (who added “Gaposchkin” to her name upon marriage in 1934). After her death in 1979, other scientists would go on to remember her as “the most eminent woman astronomer of all time.” During a time when science was largely a men’s club, she had figured out the chemical makeup of the stars. In What Stars Are Made Of, Moore takes readers on a meticulously researched tour of Payne-Gaposchkin’s remarkable life, drawn from family interviews, contemporary accounts and Payne-Gaposchkin’s own writings. It’s a riveting tale of a woman who knocked down every wall put before her to get the answers she desired about the cosmos. Growing up in England, her love of science started before she could read. But English society in the early 1900s didn’t know what to do with such a determined girl. Days before her 17th birthday, she was told to leave school after administrators found they couldn’t meet her insatiable need to learn math and science. During physics lectures at the University of Cambridge, she, like all women, had to sit at the front, forced to parade past male students stomping in time with her steps.
2-28-20 Teen girl beats boys to 'make history' as state champion
Girls-only wrestling is not recognised in North Carolina. As is the case in many states across the US, there are not enough girls wrestling in secondary schools for a division to be formed. So when Heaven Fitch set her sights on becoming a wrestling champion, it was always going to mean facing a field made up of mostly boys. On 22 February, she became the first girl to win a North Carolina High School Wrestling State Championship. Heaven follows in the footsteps of Michaela Hutchison, who became the first girl to ever win a state-wide secondary school title in 2006. In an Instagram post about the victory, Heaven proudly said: "I did it again, I made history." But when she spoke to the BBC, the 16-year-old struggled to show anything other than modesty when discussing her success. "I'm just like any other person," she said, before clarifying, "outside of wrestling". "Last year I was the first girl to reach second place in North Carolina, but I never expected to win it. Just to place last year was crazy in itself - all I wanted was to place higher. "I'm proud of how far I've come." If her words leave you in any doubt of her talents, you need only speak to Chris Waddell, who has been her coach for the past two years. "There hasn't been anyone like her in North Carolina," he told the BBC. "I've never coached anyone like her. "Heaven's an exceptional wrestler and she's making history. It's an outstanding achievement - she's just that good." In the days since her victory, a video of Heaven's win has been viewed more than 250,000 times on social media, and she has made headlines across the country for "making history". It will perhaps not surprise you to learn that the teenager was down-to-earth when reflecting on the amount of press coverage her success has received. "It's been really surreal," she said. "I didn't expect it to go this far, it's become this big thing."
2-10-20 Remarkable journey from refugee to Rhodes scholar
Growing up as an Afghan refugee in Pakistan, bloodshed was never far from Summia Tora's life. From her home - a single bedroom in a house shared by four families - she could hear the sound of drones landing not far from Peshawar, in northwest Pakistan, where her family had fled in the 1990s to escape the Taliban's rise. "I was just living in this violence, but it was a given, so I couldn't do anything about it," Summia says. Sometimes there were bombings once or twice a week. "At some point, people stopped talking about it. It would happen, and everyone would move on." But life there was a privilege compared to Afghanistan, she tells the BBC. At least she got to go to school. On a visit to Kabul in 2002, just after the US invasion, a girl not much older described only being able to attend school by pretending to be a boy. Summia was six, but she remembers it clearly. She vowed then that she would to take learning seriously. It would be hard to dispute that she has. In October, Summia, now 22, will become the first Rhodes Scholar to hail from Afghanistan, one of 102 students to earn a place in the 2020 class of the world's oldest postgraduate scholarship. Now finishing her last term at Earlham College, a liberal arts university in the US state of Indiana, her outlook is bright and she laughs with ease, the fluent torrent of her words belying the traumas of the journey that has taken her from refugee to Rhodes Scholar. To be called an educated Afghan woman is in itself a rarity. Female literacy in Afghanistan today stands at 17%, according to Unesco. Though figures in neighbouring Pakistan are still poor - around 45% of women can read - access to schooling is possible. In contrast, in her home country "even the people who could afford to go to school were not able to go… because there weren't any", Summia says. So it was her unlikely fortune to grow up in Pakistan, she says - an irony given the region's privations and dangers. Thousands of US drone operations have flown over Northwest Pakistan since 2004, as part of the so-called war on terror. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province containing Peshawar, has been a major theatre for the decades-long Pakistani fight against insurgency.
2-6-20 Seven female scientists you may not have heard of - but should know about
Not a single woman's name features in the national curriculum for science, an education charity says - prompting calls for the government to act over a "lack of visible role models for girls". Teach First has launched the STEMinism camapign, calling to close gender gaps in science and maths careers. It says no female scientists were mentioned in the GCSE science curriculum, while just two - DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin and paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey - were referred to in three double science GCSE specifications from the major exam boards. In comparison, more than 40 male scientists or their discoveries were mentioned. Meanwhile, a separate poll conducted by the charity revealed half of people are unable to name a single female scientist, alive or dead. But it is not just Britain's men who have made pioneering scientific discoveries. Here are some of the overlooked British women whose research changed the world.
- Mary Somerville: Somerville was named the 19th Century's "queen of science" after her death. Her popular books linked up and explained different areas of scientific study, and her detailed work on the solar system was influential in the discovery of Neptune.
- Mary Anning: A self-taught pioneer, Anning discovered Jurassic remains in her hometown of Lyme Regis. She came across her first find - an ancient reptile later named an Ichthyosaurus - at the age of 12.
- Ada Lovelace: Ada Lovelace was a leading 19th century mathematician credited with creating early computer programs.She worked with her friend Charles Babbage, an inventor and mechanical engineer, on his proposals for an "Analytical Engine".
- Elizabeth Garrett Anderson: Garrett Anderson was the first woman to qualify in the UK as a doctor - but it wasn't easy to get there. In her mid-20s, she enrolled as a nurse at the Middlesex Hospital in London.
- Elsie Widdowson: Widdowson devoted her life to improving people's diets in Britain and overseas. In 1940, when food was being rationed during World War Two, she published a book called The Chemical Composition of Foods that contained details of the nutritional values of many foods.
- Dorothy Hodgkin: Hodgkin was born in Cairo to a British couple who were working in the north African country during a period when it was under British control. But she herself largely spent her childhood in Norfolk and was educated at a state school in Beccles, Suffolk, where she fought to be allowed to study chemistry along with the boys.
- Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is credited with one of the most important discoveries of the last century: the discovery of radio pulsars. Pulsars are the by-products of supernova explosions that make all life possible.
1-27-20 The Fighter and the Pimp: Fighting for Congo's most vulnerable girls in Kinshasa
In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital city, wrestling has helped an extraordinary woman to escape the violent streets on which she grew up. As a fighter, Shaki is an inspiration for dozens of street children, and her home has become a refuge for girls trying to escape the thugs, rapists, and pimps of Kinshasa’s slums. BBC Africa Eye follows Shaki as she steps into the wrestling ring, fights to give her daughter a chance in life, and takes on other women who have very different ideas about how to raise teenage girls.
1-15-20 Liang Jun: China's first female tractor driver, and national icon, dies
A woman who became China's first female tractor driver, and eventually a national icon, has died at the age of 90. In 1948, Liang Jun became the only female in China to take up the job, when she enrolled in a training class for tractor drivers. More than a decade later, an image of her proudly driving a tractor was featured on China's one-yuan banknote. "No-one could drive as well as me," she had said in an earlier interview. "I have no regrets in this life." Liang Jun was born in 1930 to a poor family in China's remote Heilongjiang province. She spent most of her early years helping out at a farm as well as studying in a rural school. In 1948, when a local school opened up a course to train tractor drivers, she seized her chance. According to local media, there were 70 students in the class - with Liang Jun being the only woman. She eventually completed her training and became the country's first female tractor driver. A year later, communist leader Mao Zedong announced the creation of the People's Republic of China. In previous eras in China, nobles, poets and military leaders were the ones to admire. But when the communists took power in 1949, a new kind of hero was born - the model worker, a concept already in use in the Soviet Union. The Chinese state promoted poor, hard-working individuals whose dedication to building a socialist country was held up for others to follow. Liang Jun was one of the first, and one of the best known, model workers. Her smiling face as she drives her tractor on the one yuan banknote was supposed to inspire others to similar heights of achievement. It was not just class barriers she broke down either. Liang Jun became a symbol for all Chinese women, and the possibilities that now opened up for them. She herself made full use of those opportunities. She became an engineer and a politician; a long journey from an impoverished childhood.