9-8-21 The American elite will be female
How women conquered college — and the future. Stereotypes tend to lag reality. Wall Street is personified by Gordon Gekko, years after his instinctive investing and sartorial flamboyance went out of style. We imagine the foreign policy community is reserved for lock-jawed patricians, a type that's hardly been seen for decades. Judging by movies and TV series like the The Chair, meanwhile, college is a different kind of boy's club, one dominated by strutting jocks among the students and tweedy graybeards on the faculty. But it's been a long time since that was true. Despite its anachronistic reputation, the college population is increasingly female. Surveying recent data, The Wall Street Journal finds that women made up nearly 60 percent of enrollment in the 2020-21 academic year. Women are not just more likely to attend college, but also more likely to graduate. According to the report, about two thirds of women who enroll at a four-year institution graduate within six years, compared with 59 percent of men. The burgeoning gender gap is an open secret in higher education. With none of the fanfare that accompanies their pursuit of racial diversity, many institutions give an admissions advantage to men. One reason is that administrators fear women are also less likely to enroll when the male student population drops below 40 percent. Women's success in admissions isn't only a dilemma for colleges trying to balance their books. Because elite institutions hire almost exclusively college graduates, campuses are the point of departure for female dominance of publishing, the culture industry, and areas of the corporate world — particularly the massive human resources industry. Skeptics might observe that the upper tiers of these fields remain dominated by men. That's right, but largely a generation effect. Today's non-profit trustees, tenured professors, and executive editors began their careers decades ago, when college student bodies were more equally divided (and in some cases, exclusively male). It would be surprising if the gender ratio in upper management remained the same in another 20 years. The continuing transformation of college into a women's domain has consequences that we haven't really begun to face. College-educated women overwhelmingly support Democrats. That may be a result of what happens while they're enrolled. But there's also evidence that women who enter college start out disproportionately liberal. However you slice the data, more women enrolled in college, from which they graduate at higher rates, encourages political monoculture. Demographic change is a more plausible explanation of the progressive drift of the American elite than ideological conspiracy theories. In debates about the boundaries of toleration, women are far more likely to accept the principle that speech can be "violence." According to one survey, Democratic men support free speech online at about the same rate as Republican women (who are less likely to hold a BA). Sixty-six percent of Democratic women, by contrast, think "people being able to feel safe and welcome" is more important. It's harder to find data about workplace policies. But it's a reasonable guess that college-educated women are more favorable to efforts to restrict what they consider dangerous, offensive, or disruptive behavior. There's also evidence that women prefer broad participation and consensus over majoritarian decisions. It's not a coincidence that promises to listen, consult, and empathize have become staples of corporate PR.
8-23-21 Joséphine Baker to be first black woman to enter France's Panthéon
American-born French performer Joséphine Baker will be entered into Paris' Panthéon mausoleum, making her the first black woman to receive the honour. The government says Baker will be inducted into the monument in November. The Panthéon is a burial place for celebrated French icons such as scientist Marie Curie and writer Victor Hugo. Baker will be just the sixth woman to join some 80 national heroes. Born in St Louis, Missouri in 1906, Baker rose to international stardom in the 1930s after moving to France to pursue a career in showbusiness. She was also a resistance fighter for her adopted country France during World War Two, and had a role in the civil rights movement in the US. Her induction into the Panthéon recognises her contribution to the performing arts and her courage in actively resisting Nazi Germany during the war. While her body will remain buried in Monaco, she will be honoured on 30 November with a memorial with a plaque, one of her children, Claude Bouillon-Baker, told AFP news agency. French President Emmanuel Macron approved Baker's induction after a campaign led by her family and a petition with about 38,000 signatures. Baker's family had been requesting her induction since 2013, but only the president can approve entrants to the monument. Thanking the president on Sunday, government minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said Baker was "a great lady, who loved France". One of the campaigners, Jennifer Guesdon, said the decision had raised the profile of Baker, who was "only known to some as an international star". Baker enjoyed roaring success on the stage in the 1920s and 30s, wowing audiences with her provocative dance routines in Paris. But it was her war-time work for the resistance that cemented her status in France, where she became a citizen after her marriage to industrialist Jean Lion in 1937. Baker used her celebrity connections to gather information on German troop movements which she passed on, scribbled on musical scores. Throughout her life, Baker was an outspoken anti-racism activist. In 1963, she took part in the March on Washington alongside civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, when he delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. Baker died in 1975 and received French military honours at her funeral. (Webmasters Comment: She was a most amazing woman! I have all her films.)
8-23-21 France to re-bury U.S.-born Josephine Baker alongside other French luminaries in Pantheon
France's presidential palace confirmed Sunday that Josephine Baker, a U.S.-born dancer and civil rights activist who became a French citizen in 1937, will be laid to rest in the Pantheon alongside other French heroes like Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie. Baker, who died in Paris in 1975 and is currently buried in Monaco, will be the first Black woman and first entertainer buried in the Pantheon, and only the fifth woman given that honor, alongside 72 men. The funeral, first reported by France's Le Parisien newspaper, will take place Nov. 30. Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, and she moved to Paris in 1925, largely to escape racial discrimination in the U.S. She became one of France's biggest cabaret stars, earning huge fame at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees then Les Follies Bergères for her songs and dance routines, notably her "banana skirt" dances. Baker joined the French Resistance during World War II, earning medals of honor for her work as an ambulence driver and intelligence agent. "Amid other missions, she collected information from German officials she met at parties and carried messages hidden in her underwear to England and other countries, using her star status to justify her travels," The Associated Press reports. Her civil rights advocacy included joining Martin Luther King Jr. on stage in 1963 during the March on Washington. Only France's president can decide to inter someone in the Pantheon, and French President Emmanuel Macron chose Baker after writer Laurent Kupferman started a petition that earned nearly 40,000 signatures over the past two years, The New York Times reports. Macron's interest was piqued "because, probably, Josephine Baker embodies the Republic of possibilities," Kupferman told the Times. A woman "from a discriminated and very poor background" achieving "her destiny" as "a world star" is something "that was possible in France at a time when it was not in the United States." French authorities have also faced "growing calls to inter more women in the Pantheon," the Times adds, and three of the four women currently buried there — French Resistance fighters Germaine Tillion and Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz and former health minister and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil — were added to the Pantheon in 2014 and 2018.
8-22-21 Elaine Thompson-Herah runs second fastest time in women's 100m history
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah ran the second fastest women's 100m of all time at the Eugene Diamond League. The Jamaican, who retained her 100m-200m title double in Tokyo, clocked a new world lead of 10.54 seconds. Only American Florence Griffith-Joyner has run faster, when she set her world record of 10.49 secs in 1988. Britain's Dina Asher-Smith finished third in the 200m as she continues her return from the hamstring injury that blighted her Olympic campaign. The race was won by Switzerland's Mujinga Kambundji, with American Gabrielle Thomas finishing 0.08 secs ahead of world champion Asher-Smith. In the 100m, Thompson-Herah's Jamaican compatriots Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson were second and third respectively in a repeat of the Tokyo podium. American Sha'Carri Richardson, who missed the Olympics because of a one-month suspension after testing positive for marijuana, finished last. "It was a great return back to the sport," the 21-year-old said. "I wanted to be able to come and perform. Having the month off, dealing with all I had to deal with, I'm not upset with myself at all. "This is one race, I'm not done. You know what I'm capable of. Count me out if you want to, because I'm here to stay." Earlier this season, Fraser-Pryce ran 10.63 secs to become the second fastest woman in history behind Griffith-Joyner, only to see her time usurped by 29-year-old Thompson-Herah with 10.61 secs as she retained her Olympic title in Tokyo. Records tumbled in all corners of the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, with Olympic medallists continuing their fine form back on the Diamond League tour. Tokyo bronze medallist Andre de Grasse won the men's 100m in 9.74 secs, with Americans Fred Kerley - the Olympic silver medal winner - and Ronnie Baker crossing the line in second and third.
8-21-21 Nine Afghan girl robotics team members safe in Qatar
After scrambling for days to bring them to safety, nine members of an Afghan all-girls robotics team have arrived in Qatar, the team's parent organisation has confirmed.Their flight out of Afghanistan was organised by the Qatar government, which expedited visas and sent an aircraft.The team first made headlines in 2017 after winning a special award at an international robotics competition in the US. They have been widely praised as a shining example of the potential of women's education in Afghanistan. The departure of the team members, aged 15 to 19, as well as a 25-year-old teacher, comes amid a worsening security situation in Kabul, the Afghan capital. In a statement, the team's parent organisation, the US-based Digital Citizen Fund (DCF), said that they requested help from Qatar on August 12, just three days ahead of Kabul's capture by the Taliban. Members of the Qatar government had remained in contact with the team after hosting them in Doha, the capital, in 2019. The girls originally came from the city of Herat, in western Afghanistan. "When we heard that Kabul was going to fall, we were able to contact the [Qatari foreign] ministry and they immediately started expediting visas to get them out," DCF board member Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown told the BBC. "They are taking very good care of them." She stressed, however, that the girls were not "rescued"."The girls rescued themselves through all their hard work and bravery over the past several years," she added. "The flight out of Kabul was only the end of a journey in which safety was a concern." The girls now in Doha may remain in Qatar or move further afield to continue their studies. Although she declined to provide specifics, she added that several universities around the globe - including some in the US - have offered scholarships.
8-17-21 Vera Rubin’s work on dark matter led to a paradigm shift in cosmology
A new biography shows how the astronomer’s tenacity paid off. Vera Rubin’s research forced cosmologists to radically reimagine the cosmos. In the 1960s and ’70s, Rubin’s observations of stars whirling around within galaxies revealed the gravitational tug of invisible “dark matter.” Although astronomers had detected hints of this enigmatic substance for decades, Rubin’s data helped finally convince a skeptical scientific community that dark matter exists (SN: 1/10/20). “Her work was pivotal to redefining the composition of our cosmos,” Ashley Yeager, Science News’ associate news editor, writes in her new book. Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond follows Rubin’s journey from stargazing child to preeminent astronomer and fierce advocate for women in science. That journey, Yeager shows, was rife with obstacles. When Rubin was a young astronomer in the 1950s and ’60s, many observatories were closed to women, and more established scientists often brushed her off. Much of her early work was met with intense skepticism, but that only made Rubin, who died in 2016 at age 88, a more dogged data collector. On graphs plotting the speeds of stars swirling around galaxies, Rubin showed that stars farther from galactic centers orbited just as fast as inner stars. That is, the galaxies’ rotation curves were flat. Such speedy outer stars must be pulled along by the gravitational grip of dark matter. Science News staff writer Maria Temming spoke with Yeager about Rubin’s legacy and what, beyond her pioneering research, made Rubin remarkable. The following discussion has been edited for clarity and brevity. It all started when I was working at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in 2007. I was walking around the “Explore the Universe” exhibit and noticed there weren’t many women featured. But then there was this picture of a woman with big glasses and cropped hair, and I thought, “Who is this?” It was Vera Rubin.
8-11-21 Kathy Hochul: Who is New York's first female governor?
Kathy Hochul is to become the first female governor of New York, after Andrew Cuomo resigned over sexual harassment allegations - which he denies. Ms Hochul will take over as the top politician in the fourth most populous US state in just two weeks' time. But who is she? Described by her predecessor as "smart and competent", the 62-year-old is a centrist Democrat from the Buffalo area of New York state. She joined the governor's team in 2014, and has held the largely ceremonial role of lieutenant governor. Ms Hochul is from a family of steelworkers, and her grandparents fled poverty in Ireland before making New York their home. One of six children, she gained an undergraduate degree from Syracuse University, and a law degree from Catholic University of America. From there, she started off working as an aide on Capitol Hill and worked in local positions before being elected to Congress. Ms Hochul has been an advocate for women facing domestic and sexual violence throughout her career. She led Mr Cuomo's "Enough is Enough" campaign to fight sexual assault on college campuses. In 2006 she also established the Kathleen Mary House, a transitional home for victims of domestic violence, with her mother and aunt. In 2008, the governor-to-be caused controversy when serving as the Eerie county clerk, after she opposed then-governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to give drivers' licences to undocumented immigrants. She walked back on the comments 10 years later, stating, "it is a whole different era out there". Ms Hochul had joined the chorus of politicians denouncing Andrew Cuomo last week, and said his resignation on Tuesday was the "right thing to do". The investigation into Mr Cuomo "documented repulsive & unlawful behaviour by the Governor towards multiple women", she tweeted. An independent investigation by the New York Attorney General's office found that Mr Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women, including state employees.
8-10-21 Fashion photographer: 'The world doesn't see this part of Afghanistan'
Fatimah Hossaini is a fashion photographer in Afghanistan. She takes pictures that push the boundaries on cultural norms in the country. She says she wants to use her work to help women be seen. Afghanistan is a conservative society and Fatimah has been threatened by the Taliban for what she does but says she wants to carry on living and working in her country.
8-6-21 Tokyo Olympics: Allyson Felix becomes most decorated female track & field athlete
American Allyson Felix became the most decorated female track and field athlete of all time by taking 400m bronze for her 10th Olympic medal. Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas won the gold medal, with Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic taking silver. Felix, 35, passed the record of Jamaica's Merlene Ottey, who won nine Olympic medals. Felix has now won six golds, three silvers and one bronze. She has the chance of an 11th medal on Saturday, when the United States seek to defend their 4x400m relay title, and it would take her past Carl Lewis as the most decorated American track and field athlete.
8-6-21 Indian women's hockey: Sixteen stories of struggle, one tale of triumph
The Indian women's hockey team made history by qualifying for their first Olympic semi-final - they lost to Great Britain in a nip and tuck battle on Friday. But the journey has not been an easy one, writes Deepti Patwardhan. "What will she do playing hockey? She will run around the field wearing a short skirt and bring a bad name to your family," Rani Rampal's parents were told. Vandana Katariya was discouraged to play hockey because it was "unbecoming of a girl". Neha Goyal, born to an alcoholic father prone to violence, sought solace in the hockey field. Nisha Warsi's mother worked at a foam factory to keep food on the family's plate after her father suffered a paralytic attack in 2015. Nikki Pradhan, who hails from the tribal belt of Jharkhand, laboured in paddy fields and started playing hockey with borrowed, broken sticks on gravel playgrounds. They tackled the odds, ignored the naysayers and silenced the critics. They overcame. Rampal, Katariya, Goyal, Warsi and Pradhan are only some of the protagonists in India's history-making squad of 16. For the first time, the women's hockey team competed for a medal at the Olympics. On Friday morning they played their hearts out before going down 3-4 to Rio 2016 gold medalists Great Britain in the fight for bronze. Even before they left for the Olympics, not many gave them a chance to progress into the knockouts. But they did. In the quarter-finals they took on former champions Australia. They played with the kind of skill that the world associates with Indian hockey, and the kind of pace no-one had quite expected from them. They defeated Australia 1-0 on Monday to make their maiden Olympic semi-final.Rampal, Katariya, Goyal, Warsi and Pradhan are only some of the protagonists in India's history-making squad of 16. For the first time, the women's hockey team competed for a medal at the Olympics. On Friday morning they played their hearts out before going down 3-4 to Rio 2016 gold medalists Great Britain in the fight for bronze. Even before they left for the Olympics, not many gave them a chance to progress into the knockouts. But they did.In the quarter-finals they took on former champions Australia. They played with the kind of skill that the world associates with Indian hockey, and the kind of pace no-one had quite expected from them. They defeated Australia 1-0 on Monday to make their maiden Olympic semi-final.
7-27-21 This teen pilot wants to be the youngest woman to fly solo around the world
Zara Rutherford hopes that her upcoming air adventure serves two purposes — she wants to break a world record while showing girls that the sky's the limit when it comes to a career. On August 11, the 19-year-old from Belgium plans to set off on a 32,000-mile trip, aiming to become the youngest woman to ever fly solo around the world; the record is now held by Shaesta Waiz, who was 30 when she circumnavigated the globe in 2017. Rutherford will be flying in a Shark ultralight aircraft, and it could take three months to complete her journey, which will take her across 52 countries. "The greatest challenge will be the remote places like northern Russia or Greenland — there aren't many people who live there so if anything were to go wrong I would be in a bit of an awkward situation," Rutherford told PA Media. "I've got a bit of nerves and excitement, sometimes both." Both of Rutherford's parents are pilots, and she got her license in 2020. Two of her passions are flying and computer science, and she said when she was younger, she really didn't see too many women in those fields. This was "quite discouraging," Rutherford said, and it is her desire to "inspire other girls to try to beat my record and then go and start competing with the boys."
7-17-21 US Navy: First woman passes elite training scheme
For the first time, a female sailor has completed the US Navy training programme to become a Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman (SWCC). Members of the elite US defence force group support Navy SEALs in high-risk warfare missions, and conduct their own classified military operations. The sailor who completed the gruelling 37 weeks of training has not been named, in line with Pentagon policy. The US military began allowing women to serve in combat roles in 2015. The troop was among 17 sailors to graduate the "assessment and selection" process on Thursday, the Navy said in a news release. Only about 35% of sailors who apply to the SWCC programme manage to complete it, officials say. The gruelling exercises train recruits on weaponry, navigation, parachuting, combat and covert insertion and extraction - getting soldiers in and out of hostile or classified areas. The programme culminates in a 72-hour event called the Tour, which is the point when many troops drop out. It tests recruits both physically and mentally as they endure 23 hours of running and 5 miles (8km) of swimming in challenging environments. "Becoming the first woman to graduate from a Naval Special Warfare training pipeline is an extraordinary accomplishment, and we are incredibly proud of our teammate," said Rear Admiral HW Howard, Commander of US Naval Special Warfare Command. "Like her fellow operators, she demonstrated the character, cognitive and leadership attributes required to join our force." According to the Associated Press, the troop is the first of 18 women who have applied to be a SWCC or a SEAL to succeed. Of the those, 14 were unable to complete the course, and three are currently still undergoing training.
7-9-21 Zaila Avant-garde: Teenager makes history at US spelling bee
A teenage basketball prodigy has become the first African American to win the US Scripps National Spelling Bee. Zaila Avant-garde, a 14-year-old from New Orleans, Louisiana, cruised to victory with the word "murraya", a type of tropical tree. To get to that point she had to spell out "querimonious" and "solidungulate". Despite practising for up to seven hours a day, she describes spelling as a side hobby - Zaila's main focus is on becoming a basketball pro. She already holds three world records for dribbling multiple balls at once, and has appeared in an advertisement with the NBA megastar Stephen Curry. Zaila saw off a field of 11 finalists on Thursday to win the title and bagged a first-place prize of $50,000 (£36,000) at the event in Orlando, Florida. In the final round, she beat 12-year-old Chaitra Thummala of Frisco, Texas. It was the first time since 2008 that at least one champion or co-champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee was not of South Asian descent, the Associated Press news agency reports. Zaila had earlier in the evening hesitated over the word nepeta, a herbal mint, but managed to spell it correctly. "For spelling, I usually try to do about 13,000 words [per day], and that usually takes about seven hours or so," the home-schooled teen told New Orleans paper the Times-Picayune. "We don't let it go way too overboard, of course. I've got school and basketball to do." Zaila is the second black girl to win the tournament - Jody-Anne Maxwell, of Jamaica, was crowned champion in 1998 at the age of 12. In 2019, eight children came joint-first for the first time in the spelling bee's history. The tournament was cancelled last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
7-9-21 Jehan Sadat: Egypt's first lady who transformed women's rights
Jehan Sadat was sitting in the stands, just a few metres away from her husband, when gunmen opened fire at a military parade in Cairo. Her life partner, Anwar - then president of Egypt - was hit by several bullets and died two hours later in hospital. It was 6 October 1981, and Jehan's decade-long spell as Egypt's first lady came to an abrupt halt. Jehan, who has died at the age of 88, spent most of her life dedicated to promoting social justice and female empowerment in Egypt, and continued to do so decades after her husband's very public assassination. "She led change and inspired generations to come," says Noha Bakr, a political studies affiliate professor at the American University of Cairo. Born in Cairo in 1933 to an Egyptian father and British mother, Jehan experienced a diverse upbringing, celebrating Christmas and eating cornflakes for breakfast instead of the usual Egyptian fare of fava beans, as well as devotedly fasting each year during the Muslim festival of Ramadan. Her dislike for gender inequality stemmed from her school days when she was advised by her parents to focus on subjects such as sewing and cooking, in preparation for marriage, as opposed to the maths and sciences that could have led to a university career. "I have always regretted that decision. I would never allow my daughters to close off their futures that way," she wrote in her autobiography, A woman of Egypt. She first met her future husband Anwar, a former army officer, at the age of 15 on a visit to her cousin's house - not long after he was released from prison for fighting against British control in Egypt. Her mother in particular was reluctant to allow the marriage of her daughter to a divorced revolutionary nearly twice her age, but he won her over in a conversation about Charles Dickens. "He is intelligent. He has character. He will take good care of you. And you will never be bored," her mother told her. They wed in 1949 and enjoyed a marriage lasting more than three decades, having four children together.
7-7-21 Mary Simon: Trudeau names indigenous leader in 'historic' first
Canadian Prime Minister has named Mary Simon as governor general, the first indigenous person to hold the post. The former diplomat and advocate for Inuit rights will represent Canada's head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. The announcement comes nearly six months after the former governor general, Julie Payette, resigned amid accusations of bullying. While the role is largely ceremonial, the governor general presides over important state duties. Ms Simon's appointment follows a national reckoning over Canada's legacy of residential schools. These government-funded boarding schools were part of policy to attempt to assimilate indigenous children and roll back indigenous cultures and languages. In the past two months, hundreds of unmarked graves, believed to belong to former residential school students, have been found. Born in northern Quebec, Ms Simon said she had been raised to maintain an active connection to her Inuit culture and heritage. She has served as the ambassador to Denmark and as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada's national Inuit organisation. On Tuesday, she said her "historic" nomination was "an important step forward on the long path towards reconciliation" and towards "building a more inclusive and just Canadian society". Ms Simon is bilingual in English and Inuktitut - but not French. She said she had been denied the opportunity to learn French while attending a federal day school in Quebec. Canada has two official languages: English and French. It is rare that an appointee like this would not be proficient in both but Ms Simon said on Tuesday she was committed to continuing French language studies. As the Queen's representative in Canada, the governor general carries out many duties in her absence. He or she has the power to give a throne speech and suspend parliament, give royal assent to legislation and swear in the prime minister, and is commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.
7-3-21 Interview: The women behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been crucial for fighting covid-19 in the UK and many low-income countries. The unprecedented speed of its manufacture was only possible because the technology underpinning it had been in development for years before the pandemic struck, by a team of scientists at the University of Oxford. The research was led by Sarah Gilbert, working alongside a team including Teresa Lambe, who helped design the vaccine’s genetic code, and Catherine Green, who helped manufacture the first batches of vaccine used in trials. The trio spoke to Clare Wilson about the rollercoaster of events behind this historic achievement. Before the pandemic struck, which diseases were this type of vaccine being developed against? Teresa Lambe: In 2013, there was an Ebola outbreak. After that, the World Health Organization and a number of bodies put together a hit-list of viruses that they wanted vaccines against. We tried to make vaccines against all of those: Ebola, Zika, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, Nipah virus, Lassa virus and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). On the list of pathogens of concern, there was also “Disease X” – the unknown. We always knew we had to have something that we could go quickly with. And that was our ChAdOx1 adenovirus platform [that eventually became the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine]. When did you realise you might need to make a vaccine against covid-19? Lambe: I’ve got a brother in China, so I started to follow tweets around a virus that was transmitting in China. I thought it was probably going to be influenza; that’s where I would have put my money on. Then its identity became known in early January. Because we had the mechanisms in place, we decided to press the accelerator and go.
6-28-21 Papua's sacred forest for women only
In Papua, Indonesia, there is a mangrove forest that only women are allowed to enter. It’s a special place where generations of women have gathered clams and shared stories. If men are found inside the forest, they are fined. BBC Indonesia’s all-female crew was granted permission to enter.
6-23-21 Katherine Johnson memoir: Her incredible life as a NASA mathematician
IT IS rare to suddenly find yourself a household name at the age of 98. Yet until a few years ago, not many people had heard of Katherine Johnson and her pioneering work as a mathematician at NASA during the space race. All that changed in 2016 following the success of Margot Lee Shetterly’s bestselling book Hidden Figures and the subsequent film adaptation. “How could I have imagined,” writes Johnson, in the introduction to her autobiography My Remarkable Journey, “that from ages 97 to 101 I would be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (with a kiss from my favorite president); appear onstage at the Oscars; receive thirteen honorary doctorate degrees, including one from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa; have four major buildings named in my honor, including a second NASA facility…” The list goes on. Her autobiography, written with input from two of her three daughters, Joylette Hylick and Katherine Moore, charts how she got there. Few, if any, of the other mathematicians who worked with Johnson at NASA during the space race share that kind of mainstream fame, but neither were they forced to overcome the kind of barriers Johnson faced. Her memoir dwells on the things she loved – mathematics, family and the supportive communities around her – but doesn’t shy away from details of the relentless cruelty, violence and injustice of racial segregation and prejudice that steeped the lives of her family and friends, and those of African American people in general. Add to that her gender, at a time when women weren’t credited with much competence for anything beyond home building and raising children, and you get the picture that she was no ordinary NASA mathematician. Johnson needed to be better than her white male colleagues to succeed, and fortunately she was. “The team soon discovered that I could do the equations quicker than all of them,” she writes unabashedly, though she puts that down to the foresight of her tutor, William Schieffelin Claytor, in adding analytic geometry of space to the curriculum he taught her, and the fact that she was the most recent college graduate.
5-30-21 Mount Everest: 'Aim high' female teacher who set new speed record says
"When you aim high, expect high," Tsang Yin Hung, a former teacher from Hong Kong, told reporters in Nepal. It is a phrase she often repeated to her friends before recording the world's fastest ascent of Mount Everest by a woman last Sunday. Ms Tsang, 45, reached the top of the world's highest mountain from base camp in 25 hours and 50 minutes. That was fast enough to beat the previous record, set by a Nepalese climber in 2017, by more than 12 hours. "I just feel a kind of relieved and happy because I am not looking for breaking record. I just [wanted to] challenge myself," Ms Tsang told media in Nepal's capital Kathmandu on Sunday, after safely returning from Everest. Ms Tsang is one of three climbers who have set new Everest records in recent days. Last Sunday, Arthur Muir, 75, became the oldest American to climb the mountain, while 46-year old Zhang Hong of China became the first blind man from Asia to complete the feat on Monday. The record-breakers are three of the hundreds of climbers who have summited the mountain so far this spring. They have done so despite a surge in coronavirus cases in Nepal and Everest base camp since mid-April. Nepal's government reopened Mount Everest to foreigners in April after it was shut last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Ms Tsang made a previous attempt on 11 May, but bad weather forced her to turn back. Determined to make it to the top, she returned a week later. She left base camp at 13:20 local time (07:35 GMT) on 22 May and reached the top at 15:10 the next day, a Nepalese government official said told AFP news agency. Usually climbers spend several days in different camps before reaching the peak. Ms Tsang beat the 2017 record set by Nepali woman Phunjo Jhangmu Lama, who climbed Everest in 39 hours and six minutes. Ms Tsang attributed the record to her ability, team work and luck. But for her, the record was an afterthought. "I always tell my working team, my friends, when you aim high, expect high," Ms Tsang was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency. "So I feel relieved because I can prove my work to my friends, to my students."
5-25-21 A new memoir tells the life story of NASA ‘hidden figure’ Katherine Johnson
‘My Remarkable Journey’ offers a window into U.S. race relations during the 20th century. Katherine Johnson became a household name circa 2016, when the bestselling book and Hollywood film Hidden Figures highlighted her role as a NASA mathematician during the space race (SN: 1/21/17, p. 28). Those works showcased Johnson’s ability to perform high-stakes calculations to send astronauts to space, all while she endured racism and sexism from her colleagues. But crunching numbers for NASA is only part of Johnson’s story. Her posthumous memoir, My Remarkable Journey, tells the rest (SN: 2/24/20). Cowritten with two of her three daughters, Johnson’s memoir spends surprisingly little time explaining her work at NASA. Instead, the book focuses on Johnson’s personal life, including many experiences that reveal insight into the United States’ tumultuous race relations in the 20th century. Her account begins with her childhood in small-town West Virginia. Even then, Johnson’s thirst for knowledge was palpable: She snuck out to follow her older siblings to school, peppered her parents and teachers with questions, and counted everything in sight. While in college at West Virginia State University, Johnson decided she wanted to become a mathematician. Readers quickly see the profound obstacles that faced educated Black people like Johnson. When she graduated in 1937 at age 18 with the highest GPA in her university’s history, Johnson had few employment opportunities. Her only job offer was a teaching gig at an all-Black elementary school. Johnson uses her own educational and work experiences as windows into broader issues. She frequently pivots from her story to describe her teachers’ race-based struggles and the history of the Black schools she attended or served. These asides slow the narrative but reveal something deeper: Johnson’s immense pride in Black educational institutions and her gratitude to the Black educators who were her role models.
4-28-21 Mon Laferte: Chile's pop export on repression and injustice
Chile's biggest pop export, Mon Laferte, is known for speaking her mind and going to great lengths to do so. Her latest album, Seis, is her most intimate and courageous yet; tackling complex topics such as misogyny, repression, and injustice, inspired by her lived experiences. It comes at a time where Laferte, more than at any other point in her career, has emerged as a polarising figure in Latin America. The three-time Latin Grammy award winner is unafraid of alienating her more conservative fans by rallying for women's rights and calling out institutionalised abuse. At the 2019 Latin Grammys, she painted "In Chile, they torture, rape and kill" on her exposed breasts to decry human rights abuses after protests over inequality, healthcare and education were violently repressed. Thousands of civilians were injured, including hundreds blinded by police weapons, and dozens killed. Laferte sided with the movement's demands and joined the protests: "I come from a poor neighbourhood in Chile," she says. "There are not many opportunities." Around the same time, Chilean police took legal action against her for suggesting, in an interview, that armed forces were complicit in arson and looting during the unrest. Laferte responded to the charges, which were later dropped, while headlining a televised festival: "If they want to arrest me for saying what I think, let them arrest me," she announced. Her concert made headlines for its political overtures. She showed solidarity for the victims of police violence and denounced how the state had tried to silence her. The crowds cheered with popular protest chants. If this was Laferte's cumulative showdown with the state, she was the one who walked away with her head held high. But less than a month later, she was eventually forced into silence - not by the Chilean authorities, but by the pandemic.
4-3-21 The women fighting South Africa's 'infodemic'
In South Africa, a small group of volunteers is waging an online battle against Covid-19 and vaccine misinformation. Much of it comes from abroad, Jack Goodman reports. When Sarah Downs tweeted about how her grandmother had died from Covid-19, there was one response she did not expect. "I had just posted a message on Twitter basically saying my amazing grandma passed away and she meant a lot to me," she says. "So then I had someone asking me, 'Well, was there an autopsy done? What were the autopsy results? You don't know that she passed away from Covid. She could have passed away from something else.'" She had run directly into a Covid-19 denier. They're a relatively small but vocal group who have a range of beliefs - but in general, many think coronavirus is a "hoax" or "not real", and are against public health measures and lockdown rules. Right now, one of their main preoccupations is campaigning against vaccines. But Sarah - studying molecular biology and infectious diseases - was the wrong person to troll. She spends hours debunking false claims for friends, family and strangers under the alias Mistress of Science. She and others have had their work cut out as medical misinformation has taken hold in South Africa - the country worst hit by the pandemic on the continent. At the top end of the information pipeline are a relatively small collection of Facebook groups and users, including some that have actively promoted hard-line anti-vaccination content for years. "We estimate that it's about 20,000 South Africans who are actually active on anti-vax Facebook pages," says Prof Hannelie Meyer, a pharmacist and adviser to the South African Vaccine and Immunisation Centre (Savic). That's just a fraction of the country's population of 59 million. And most anti-vaccine claims in South Africa actually originate in the United States, according to a 2015 study. Anecdotal evidence - for instance the viral take-off in the country of false claims about vaccines and DNA by an American osteopath - suggests this trend has continued through the pandemic.
3-29-21 'Astronauts aren't just men - we're astronauts too'
A seven-year-old aspiring astronaut has spent lockdown building and "launching" a homemade rocket into the sky from her Leicester home. Elizabeth treated fans on her social media accounts to a "static fire" of her cardboard rocket from her parents' living room before rolling the rocket out to a launch pad in the garden. Elizabeth shares her favourite experiments on her YouTube channel, which has hundreds of subscribers. Her online fame has also led to opportunities with American-based payload company, Astrobotic, which has offered to take her YouTube sticker to the Moon on board their Peregrine lunar lander later this year. Elizabeth's mother, Jennifer, who is originally from Connecticut, said the US space agency's plans to send a woman to the Moon were "huge for humanity". "I'm excited to be the mother of a daughter at this time. One who's so excited about space," she said. A spokesperson from Astrobotic said: "Younger generations need role models that look like them. Elizabeth's enthusiasm for space is fantastic and we're proud to be sending her sticker to the Moon."
3-27-21 The all-female team racing to bring change to motor sports
The Iron Dames have already qualified for big-name races, and are hoping to change the perception of women in sports. A black and pink Ferrari coils and loops around the Mugello Circuit, just outside Florence, and guns across the finish line at 170 miles per hour. The roar of its engine echoes throughout the Tuscan countryside. This sleek ride isn't your typical commercial sports car, it's a Ferrari 488 GTE — a hyper-tuned machine built for endurance racing, with a cockpit made of carbon fiber and rebar steel. Steering behind a wheel full of buttons is 27-year-old Michelle Gatting, an ambitious pilot from Denmark. Gatting started riding go-karts at the age of 7. Today, she is the youngest member of the Iron Dames, an all-female professional racing team that competes in Grand Touring endurance racing, or GT. "An Iron Dame is a determined, strong-willed woman who has strong goals in her life," Gatting said. "And who is really passionate about what she's doing." The Iron Dames is one of just three all-female teams in the world that competes head-to-head with men. The International Federation of the Automobile (FIA), the global governing body for motor racing, has praised them as a "sign of progress" in this male-dominated sport. Far from a marketing gimmick, the Iron Dames have already qualified for big-name races, and are hoping to change the perception of women in the sport. "We fight, we want to win, we want to go for the podiums," said Gatting, referring to where winners stand to receive first, second or third place. "And when you do that, and you get [to] those podiums, people they don't question anymore why you're there," she said. GT endurance racing is like marathon running — but for sports cars. Teams of pilots speed around twisty circuits for hours at a time, while racking up an insane amount of laps — sometimes up to 2,000 miles, depending on the race. In 2019, the Iron Dames became the first ever, all-female lineup to begin and finish the legendary 24-hour of Le Mans —the mother of all endurance races. Teams of pilots take turns driving one car for a full day and a full night. They pause only for seconds at a time to switch tires or pilots. Last year they finished in the top 10 at Le Mans. This year, reaching the podium — in the top three — would be the ultimate game changer. "That would be fantastic, a dream come true," said Deborah Mayer, Iron Dames' founder and leader. Mayer, a French financier, entrepreneur, and pilot, founded the Iron Dames in 2018 to promote women in motor sports. "And to give the possibility to talented women to show all their capacities and skills in a quite competitive environment," said Mayer. As a long-time Ferrari collector, Mayer caught the speed bug racing in Ferrari tournaments. Now, she is betting big to take the Iron Dames to the top. Motor sports is one of very few sports where the athlete's sex doesn't matter, said Mayer. At the end of the race, what separates a good pilot from the rest is strictly the lap time. "It's not a question of strength…it's skills, it's hard work…you have to improve and work on your technique," said Mayer. "You have to have the right strategy, and, above all, you have to work as a team," she said. Mayer describes teamwork as "working at it, till the mayonnaise thickens." Professional racing teams require million-dollar cars and a traveling crew of coaches, mechanics, engineers, and other staff working up to 24 hours at a time with the pilots. Together with Mayer and Gatting, Manuela Gostner from Italy, and Rahel Frey from Switzerland, make up the original Iron Dames team.
3-19-21 ‘The Code Breaker’ tells the story of CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna
The biography also delves into the ethics of gene editing. With the slightest touch, the fernlike vine known as sleeping grass folds over on itself, like a Venus flytrap closing its flaps. “What causes the leaves to close when you touch them?” a young Jennifer Doudna wondered growing up in Hawaii. Noticing that curiosity, Doudna’s father left James Watson’s book The Double Helix on her bed one day. Doudna sped through the pages, absorbing how Watson and Francis Crick deciphered the structure of DNA. Today, she credits the book and her insatiable inquisitiveness for driving her to become a scientist and for setting the foundation for her to codiscover, nearly four decades later, a set of molecular scissors called CRISPR that can edit the genetic blueprint of life. Watson would later call CRISPR “the most important discovery since DNA’s structure,” Walter Isaacson writes in The Code Breaker. The book, both a biography of Doudna and a deep dive into the ethics of genetic engineering, is written for people who may have heard of CRISPR but don’t know much about the history of its development. The book digs into the fierce patent battles that have ensued between the University of California (Doudna is at the Berkeley campus) and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where other researchers, most notably Feng Zhang, were also developing the gene-editing tool. The tone and style of the book’s first half mimic The Double Helix, setting up the scientific process as a detective story, one focused first on understanding how bacteria rely on CRISPR to fend off viral infections and then on how scientists transformed that natural bacterial defense system into a tool that allows humans to edit their own DNA. While The Code Breaker starts off as a page-turner, the latter half is more tedious, with tangents that loosely weave together the battle over the claim to discovering CRISPR and the ethical questions around using it. Those questions came to the fore in 2018, after the birth of two babies whose genes had been edited while still embryos (SN: 11/27/18). Impressively timely, Isaacson bounces from concerns over “designer” children to Doudna’s shared 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry (SN: 10/7/20) to her latest race against rivals: adapting CRISPR into a tool that can quickly detect the virus that causes COVID-19, or one that could potentially thwart the virus’s infection of human cells (SN: 8/31/20). No longer is the race for patents and prizes, Isaacson writes, but one to save humankind from the coronavirus and possibly other ills.
3-5-21 International Women's Day: Illustrating the Covid-19 pandemic
There's barely any country in the world that hasn't been touched by the coronavirus pandemic and its aftershocks. But with so much information out there, it's sometimes hard to digest all the details and fully take it in. Ahead of International Women's Day on 8 March, we invite you to meet three women who are using their artistic talents, combined with their expertise in the fields of science, health and technology to help the fight against coronavirus. Avesta Rastan, 25, is a visual science communicator currently living in California. At the start of the pandemic, she realised there weren't many infographics revealing how Covid-19 directly affected the human body. So the artist, who is of Iranian and Canadian heritage, and is a member of the Association of Medical Illustrators, saw a unique opportunity to use her skills and her training in pathological illustration (the drawing of disease) to help the wider public. "I saw lots of illustrations and 3D models of the virus itself and its protein but I didn't really see what it did to us," she explained. She started investigating and soon created an infographic that unexpectedly went viral on social media. Even the World Economic Forum shared it. She was approached by people all over the world wanting to see the poster in different languages and offering to translate her explanations. It's now available to download in 18 languages on her website. Rastan says: "I'm not a frontline worker; I'm not in health care, but you help out in whatever way you can and for me that was using my art. She adds science can have a reputation for being difficult to learn and that does deter people but illustrations bridge that gap and could encourage more to enter her field. "Science itself isn't hard - it's a natural process for humans; we're naturally curious and want to understand how things work", she adds.
3-5-21 Nalleli Cobo: How a nine-year-old fought an oil company and won
When a Latino community in Los Angeles began their fight against an oil company they claimed was polluting their neighbourhood, a young woman played a central role. Nalleli Cobo was nine years old when she started suffering from asthma, nosebleeds and headaches. It was the beginning of a battle against an active oil well site located in front of her house in South Los Angeles. Nalleli and her mother soon found out that some of their neighbours were also getting sick. The community, mostly composed of low-income families, protested until the site was temporarily shut down. Cobo didn't stop there. Joined by a group of young activists and organisations, they sued the city to demand more regulations in oil extraction. And they won. A criminal case against the company, Allenco, and its handling of the site, resumes later this month. They declined to comment for this story but have previously stated that they invested capital to comply with regulations. She has been compared to Greta Thunberg, although her name has been recognised locally for over a decade. Cobo paused her activism activities in early 2020 after being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19. Her doctors don't know what caused her illness. After three surgeries and medical treatment, she has recently been declared cancer-free. This is her story. I grew up in University Park, in South Central Los Angeles, 30ft across the street from an oil well owned by AllenCo from 2009. I lived with my mom, my three siblings, my grandma, my great grandpa, my great grandma all in one apartment. We were eight people, including me. My mom is from Mexico and my dad is from Colombia. He was deported when I was two years old and my mom raised me. It was the year 2010 and I was nine years old. All of the sudden I started having stomach pains, nausea. I got body spasms so severe I couldn't walk, my mom would have to carry me because I would freeze up like a vegetable. I got nosebleeds so severe that I would have to sleep sitting down so I wouldn't choke on my own blood at night.
3-1-21 Golden Globes: 'Tears' as Chloe Zhao becomes first Asian woman to win best director
Asians around the world are reacting with "happy tears" as Chloe Zhao made history at the Golden Globe Awards, becoming the first Asian woman to ever win the prize for best director. Many online praised her for being a "huge inspiration for young Asian girls", adding that it was a "win for women everywhere". The Nomadland director, who was born in China, is only the second woman to win the award. The first was Barbra Streisand in 1984. "I cannot stress this enough, as an Asian woman in the arts, it is so inspiring to see Chloe Zhao make history tonight as the first woman of colour to win for best director," said one Twitter user. This year also marks the first time more than one woman has ever been shortlisted for the title of best director. Regina King and Emerald Fennell were also in the running. Ms Streisand herself congratulated Ms Zhao on the win, saying "it's about time". Her win was also celebrated on Chinese social media site Weibo, where many praised her talent. "This is the first time a Chinese female director has ever won. Congratulations Director Zhao, looking forward to your next award," said one comment. The semi-fictional Nomadland, which also took home the award for best drama, stars Frances McDormand as a woman named Fern who travels around America as a modern-day nomad. The Beijing-born director, who now resides in the US, recently directed upcoming Marvels film The Eternals. And Ms Zhao wasn't the only Asian to win big tonight. Minari, director Lee Isaac Chung's semi-autobiographical story about a Korean-American family also won for best-foreign language film. Footage released by the Golden Globes showed Mr Lee's daughter clutching him tightly when the win was announced, saying: "I prayed, I prayed!" "In a time where Asian-Americans are being attacked because we're still seen as foreign and a disease, Chloe Zhao and Minari winning Golden Globes means so much," said journalist Diep Tran in a tweet. We exist, we are Americans."
3-1-21 Why this teen set up a prize-winning fake cosmetics shop
Disturbed by reports of rising domestic violence under coronavirus lockdown, a Polish high school student decided to launch a fake online shop to offer a lifeline to victims trapped in their homes. Her idea won a European Union prize that came with €10,000 (£8,700; $12,120). "Firstly, I heard about the increase in domestic violence cases during the pandemic. Then I heard about a French initiative, where people go to the pharmacy and ask for a special mask that lets the pharmacist know they are a victim of domestic violence," Krystyna Paszko explained. "I thought it was a brilliant idea, so I came up with the idea of selling cosmetics." In April, Krystyna, who was 17 at the time, decided to launch the fake online shop "Camomiles and Pansies" to sell those cosmetics. The idea is that the victim can hide requests for help from their abuser at home by appearing to be shopping online. When a victim writes asking to buy a cream, a psychologist responds instead of a salesperson and asks how long the "skin problems" have been going on for, or how the affected skin reacts to alcohol. If someone places an order and leaves an address, it is actually code asking for authorities to visit their home. After Krystyna openly wrote about her plan on her own Facebook page, she was inundated with questions. "I thought it would only be for my friends, and friends of friends. I thought I would help maybe one person or two, but the shares on Facebook were big and it became really popular," she said. With so much interest, Krystyna contacted the Women's Rights Centre, a Polish NGO, asking for assistance. In response it provided psychologists and lawyers to work with the website. Since its launch, more than 350 people have contacted the website. Most of the victims are young, under 40, and about 10% are male. "More younger women prefer to write on Facebook than to call on the phone, it's more natural for younger women to use Facebook chat. Most of the men writing to us are teenagers," she said.
2-22-21 Jasmine Harrison on being youngest solo female to row Atlantic Ocean
Jasmine Harrison has described the moment she became the youngest woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The 21-year-old swimming teacher, from Thirsk in North Yorkshire, arrived in Antigua on Saturday after a 70-day journey.
2-22-21 Divya Kakran: 'I became famous for wrestling boys'
Divya Kakran was sent to the wrestling pit in her neighbourhood as a punishment for skipping school. But to her parents' surprise, she took to the sport and drew attention for her strength and quick reflexes. Soon, she was beating boys - a feat that made her quite famous at local bouts in India. She says her decision to pursue wrestling didn't go down well with her conservative relatives or community. But her family always supported her - she says she wants to make them proud by making a name for herself in international wrestling.
2-13-21 Nasa's pioneering black women
In recent years, black women's contributions to the space race have started to come to light. Many were recruited as "computers", meaning that they carried out complex mathematical calculations by hand, before machines were invented that could do the job. Christine Darden started her career in the computer pool, helping the engineers work out the trajectories needed to bring the Apollo Capsule back to Earth. Witness History: The stories of our times told by the people who were there.
2-6-21 Solar energy empowers young women in Yemen
Ten women in Yemen's Abs district have built and now run a solar microgrid. The project was set up in 2019 with the help of the UN Development Programme. The women now run the station as their own business, providing affordable, renewable energy to a community living near a war zone. As a result of the project’s success, there are plans to build 100 microgrids around the country, employing more local women. Station manager Iman Ghaleb Hadi Al-Hamali explains how the work has given the group confidence and hope.
1-26-21 Janet Yellen to be first female US treasury secretary
Janet Yellen has been confirmed as the first ever female US treasury secretary in a Senate vote. Ms Yellen, who headed the US central bank from 2014 to 2018, earlier won bipartisan support from members of the Senate Finance Committee. She will be responsible for guiding the Biden administration's economic response to the pandemic. The US is struggling to rebound economically from the hit caused by the coronavirus pandemic. At her confirmation hearing on 19 January, Ms Yellen urged Congress to approve trillions more in pandemic relief and economic stimulus, saying that lawmakers should "act big" without worrying about national debt. In response, Republican senators warned the former Federal Reserve head this was not the time for "a laundry list" of liberal reforms. Ms Yellen disagreed, highlighting the fact that many families whose incomes have fallen were not reached by jobless programmes. She argued that plans to raise taxes must be seen in the context of financing bigger investments necessary to make the US economy competitive. "The focus now is not on tax increases. It is on programmes to help us get through the pandemic," she stressed. Janet Yellen was previously chair of the US Federal Reserve. She was known for focusing more attention on the impact of the central bank's policies on workers and the costs of America's rising inequality. Before then-President Barack Obama named her to lead the Fed in 2014, she had served as one of its board members for a decade, including four years as vice-chair. Donald Trump bucked Washington tradition when he opted not to appoint Ms Yellen to a second four-year term at the Fed. However, her climb to the top of the economics profession had made her a feminist icon in the economics world. When she left the Fed in 2018, many paid tribute to her leadership by imitating her signature look of a blazer with a popped collar. Ms Yellen is seen as someone able to satisfy both progressive and centrist members of Mr Biden's Democratic party. Her nomination to lead the Fed in 2014 won support from some Republicans.