8-5-20 Ellen DeGeneres: Stars back TV host amid 'toxic workplace' claims
Comedian Kevin Hart, singer Katy Perry and other stars have come to Ellen DeGeneres' defence after allegations that her TV show is a toxic workplace. However, the show's one-time resident DJ has said he "did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment". It follows a Buzzfeed News story that claimed senior staff had bullied and intimidated others on set. DeGeneres later apologised to staff, saying steps would be taken to "correct the issues" that had come to light. One current and 10 former employees told Buzzfeed they had experienced racism and a workplace that was "dominated by fear". On Tuesday, Tony Okungbowa, who was the programme's DJ from 2003-2006 and 2007-2013, echoed those accounts, adding: "I stand with my former colleagues in their quest to create a healthier and more inclusive workplace." DeGeneres has distanced herself from the accusations, saying she had been "misrepresented" by "people who work with me and for me". Some of the host's celebrity friends have now closed ranks. Hart said he had known DeGeneres "for years" and called her "one of the dopest people on the... planet". e wrote on Instagram: "It's crazy to see my friend go thru what she's going thru publicly... The internet has become a crazy world of negativity... We are falling in love with peoples down fall [sic]." Perry said she had "only ever had positive takeaways" from appearing on DeGeneres' daytime talk show. Writing on Twitter, the pop star called her a "friend" and said she was sending her "love & a hug". She went on: "I think we all have witnessed the light & continual fight for equality that she has brought to the world through her platform for decades." Other celebrities to have backed DeGeneres include actors Diane Keaton and Ashton Kutcher.
7-29-20 Sharon Moalem interview: Why women are genetically stronger than men
We know that women live longer and are less susceptible to certain diseases than men. That may be down to the benefits of having two X chromosomes. WOMEN generally outlive men and are less susceptible to certain illnesses – including covid-19, it now appears. Why health outcomes are so drastically different between the sexes is unclear. But Sharon Moalem, a doctor and genetic researcher based in New York, thinks he has the answer. It isn’t because women tend to go to the doctor more or have healthier habits, he says. Instead, it’s because they are typically better equipped, genetically speaking. In humans, sex is largely determined by chromosomes, the bundles of tightly coiled DNA that carry our genes. The cells of most women possess two X chromosomes while most men have one X and one Y. So that women’s cells don’t have to carry two versions of each gene on the X chromosome, one from each X, one of the Xs is mainly switched off. It appears that which one stays active in which cells is chosen seemingly at random some time during the first few weeks of pregnancy. The result is that half a women’s cells generally use the X chromosome she inherited from her mother, while the other half use the one from her father. It has long been known that if one X has a harmful mutation, cells that use the other X can compensate. That’s why, for instance, women are less likely to be colour-blind; a gene important for eye function resides on the X chromosome. Yet Moalem argues that the benefits are far more significant than this alone. He makes the case that even if there is no obviously harmful mutation, women tend to be at an advantage by having bodies made up of two populations of genetically different cells, and that this begins even before birth. He believes this is the reason why women are less vulnerable to certain congenital disorders and better at fighting off infections – including the coronavirus. As he sees it, women are simply genetically superior. Having two copies of an X chromosome has far more benefits than we realised, and serious implications for medicine. Clare Wilson: How can women be the stronger sex, when we are generally smaller and physically weaker? Sharon Moalem: All those things are true – on average, males have more muscle mass. But I am talking about genetic superiority, and the parameter is survival. We see the consequences in many areas of medicine. When you look at supercentenarians, those over the age of 110, they are 95 per cent female.But it isn’t just making it to old age – females have a survival advantage over the life course. When I was a physician at a neonatal intensive care unit, I saw that more girls make it to their first birthday than boys. And I was seeing lower rates of congenital malformations like tongue-tie and clubfoot. Anything that’s biologically difficult to form, females do better.
7-22-20 Afterland review: A thought-provoking tale of life without men
Lauren Beukes's new speculative novel imagines a world stripped overnight of men. Do women do a better job of running things? IF ALL the human cells in your body were to suddenly dematerialise, your outline would briefly persist, in all its exquisite detail, in the form of the billions of bacteria and viruses that colonise your every nook and cranny, still suspended in the shape of the frame your body provided. Something analogous happens in Lauren Beukes’s novel Afterland, available in July worldwide and in September in the UK. Over about two years, a pandemic kills nearly every man in the world, leaving its patriarchal systems staffed exclusively by women. Cole, the mother of one of the precious few surviving boys, needs to get him out of the US and back to their home in South Africa. Her sister, meanwhile, wants to sell him. This gives the novel its structure and speed: it is a deceptively simple heist caper, with Cole on the run across the US from both her sister and the Department for the Protection of Males. The organisation is charged with imprisoning the few males that remain, probing them to find whatever biological quirk has spared them from the plague and using that knowledge to find a vaccine for the virus. Its aim of jump-starting society “back to normal” will be uncomfortably familiar as we too languish in a pandemic limbo between the Before and the After, hoping for our own vaccine. The misguided waiting game in the novel results in a few temporary accommodations to reality: straight women negotiate awkward first dates with one another, while fake baby bumps become the hottest fashion accessory. So who gets to maintain civilisation now, and do women run a better society than men? This is where the book shines as one of the best thought experiments of its kind, in which Beukes has stitched together the surprise matriarchy of The Power, the millenarian despair of Children of Men and the deeply intelligent questions of Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. The Power – in which women develop the ability to give electric shocks, ending their status as the “weaker sex” once and for all – concludes that women are just as bad as men when in ultimate control. (Webmaster's comment: Women are driven by the same biological forces as men are: Survival and Breeding!)
7-22-20 Brave New World review: Dystopian TV without lessons for today
A TV adaptation of Brave New World covers many of the same ideas as the book, but is stripped of relevance for the present day. THE 20th century produced two great British dystopias. The more famous one is 1984, George Orwell’s tale of a world unified into a handful of warring blocs run by dictators. The other, Brave New World, was written in the space between world wars by the young satirist Aldous Huxley. It had started out as a send-up of H. G. Wells’s utopian works – novels such as Men Like Gods (1923), for instance. Then Huxley visited the US, and what he made of society there – brash, colourful, shallow and self-obsessed – set the engines of his imagination speeding. The book is Huxley’s idea of what would happen if the 1930s were to run on forever. Embracing peace and order after the bloody chaos of the first world war, people have used technology to radically simplify their society. Humans are born in factories, designed to fit one of five predestined roles. Epsilons, plied with chemical treatments and deprived of oxygen before birth, perform menial functions. Alphas, meanwhile, run the world. In 1984, everyone is expected to obey the system; in Brave New World, everyone has too much at stake in the system to want to break it. Consumption is pleasurable, addictive and a duty. Want is a thing of the past and abstinence isn’t an option. The family – that eternal thorn in the side of totalitarian states – has been discarded, and with it all intimacy and affection. In fact, no distinct human emotion has escaped this world’s smiley-faced onslaught of “soma” (a recreational drug), consumerism and pornography. There is no jealousy here, no rage, no sadness. The cracks only show if you aspire to better things. Yearn to be more than you already are, and you won’t get very far. In creating a society without want, the Alphas have made a world without hope. Huxley’s dystopia has now made it to the small screen. Or the broad strokes have, at least. In the series, Alden Ehrenreich – best known for taking up the mantle of Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars story – plays John. Labelled a “savage” for living outside the walls of the World State, he encounters the Alpha Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd) and Lenina Crowne (Jessica Brown Findlay), his Beta pal.
7-17-20 College biology textbooks still portray a world of white scientists
Recent shifts to include more women and people of color still lag behind students’ diversity. Charles Darwin. Carolus Linneaus. Gregor Mendel. They’re all men. They’re all white. And their names appear in every biology book included in a new analysis of college textbooks. According to the survey, mentions of white men still dominate biology textbooks despite growing recognition in other media of the scientific contributions of women and people of color. The good news, the researchers say: Scientists in textbooks are getting more diverse. The bad news: If diversification continues at its current pace, it will take another 500 years for mentions of Black/African American scientists to accurately reflect the number of Black college biology students. “Biology is still a very white discipline, so the results were not incredibly surprising,” says Cissy Ballen, an education researcher at Auburn University in Alabama. By identifying scientist names and determining when their research was published, Ballen and her colleagues looked at trends in seven of the most commonly used college biology textbooks. They published their results June 24 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The team found that for research published between 1900 and 1999, only about 9 percent (or 55 out of 627) of scientists mentioned were women, and 3 percent (19) were people of color. But for research published between 2000 and 2018, women got 25 percent (87 out of 349) of the mentions, and people of color 8 percent (27). Some of this was representative; the number of women mentioned was proportional to the number of tenured women in the academic biology workforce over time, based on the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators. Information about the number of tenured people of color was not available.
7-1-20 How academic institutions make it harder to be a female scientist
Picture a Scientist shines a light on gender discrimination in science – and also finds reasons to be hopeful, says Simon Ings. WHAT is it about the institutions of science that encourages bullying and sexism? That pushes a young geologist down an Antarctic hillside? That tells a Black chemist to straighten her hair before applying for a job? That takes vital equipment from the tiny, ill-appointed lab of a promising researcher? Picture a Scientist follows the careers of three women and pinpoints where the field has let them down. Women disproportionately drop out of academia. In 2018, women were awarded 50 per cent of the bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering in the US, but only 36 per cent of postdocs that year were female. Small wonder, considering the experiences of the three women at the heart of this film. As a PhD student at Boston University on her first research trip to Antarctica, geologist Jane Willenbring was insulted, bullied and physically abused by her supervisor. In the film, she deplores a culture that benefits those who put up and shut up. PhD students are all too aware that an ill-disposed supervisor can foreclose all avenues of professional advancement. It pays them, therefore, to be tolerant of their supervisor’s “quirks” – to see no evil in them, and speak no evil of them. In this dynamic of patron and client, the opportunities for abuse are rife. The film also features Raychelle Burks, a chemist at American University in Washington DC, and Nancy Hopkins, a geneticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The trio are very successful, despite their struggles. Willenbring, now at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, studies how Earth’s crust responds to climate change. Burks develops cheap, easy forensic tests for war zones and disaster relief. Hopkins studies cancer.