Mar 20
Her eye on the news
'Fundamental right'

The Senate confirmation hearing for federal judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to fill the seat vacated by the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, opened Monday on Capitol Hill. The most controversial issue looming over the hearing, expected to go on for multiple days this week, is that of reproductive rights. Thus, Senator Dianne Feinstein wasted no time in addressing the topic in her opening remarks. The California Democrat told a story about a woman and her husband who endured a particularly difficult pregnancy that ended with an abortion. She also expressed concern over some of Gorsuch’s writings, which is the only inkling anyone has into his possible position on abortion, since he’s never ruled on such a case.  Here are Feinstein’s complete opening remarks. (Watch it here; Feinstein’s begins speaking at about the 2:50 mark.)

“Two weeks ago, The Washington Post ran an Op-Ed written by a woman who desperately wanted to have a baby. She described how she and her husband went to great lengths for four years to get pregnant — and were thrilled when they finally succeeded. Tragically, after her 21-week checkup, they discovered her daughter had multicystic dysplastic kidney disease. They were told by three separate doctors that her condition was 100 percent fatal, and that the risk to the mother was sevenfold if she carried her pregnancy to term. The mother described their excruciating decision and the unforgiving process the couple endured to get the medical care they needed,” Feinstein said.

“The debate over Roe v. Wade and the right to privacy,” the senator continued, “ladies and gentlemen, is not theoretical. In 1973, the court recognized a woman’s fundamental and constitutional right to privacy. That right guarantees her access to reproductive health care. In fact, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld Roe’s core finding, making it settled law for the last 44 years. I ask unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman, to enter into the record the 14 key cases where the Supreme Court upheld Roe’s core holding and the total 39 decisions where it has been reaffirmed by the court.”

Feinstein’s request was approved without objection.

“If these judgements when combined do not constitute super-precedent,” she continued, “I don’t know what does. Importantly, the dozens of cases affirming Roe are not only about precedent. They are also about a woman’s fundamental and constitutional rights. Roe ensured that women and their doctors will decide what’s best for their care — not politicians. President Trump repeatedly promised that his judicial nominees would be pro-life and ‘automatically’ overturned Roe v. Wade.  Judge Gorsuch has not had occasion to rule directly in a case involving Roe. However, his writings do raise questions. Specifically, he wrote that he believes there are no exceptions to the principle that ‘the intentional taking of a human life by private persons is always wrong.’ This language has been interpreted by both pro-life and pro-choice organizations to mean he would overturn Roe.”

The Op-Ed that Feinstein had mentioned was authored by Robin Utz and titled “I had an abortion to save my baby from pain. In my state, that didn’t matter.” In the piece, Utz goes into great detail about her ordeal, revealing that she and her husband, while struggling to get pregnant, had even considered adoption. She writes about their heartache at learning the devastating diagnosis, not only for their baby, whom they had named Grace Pearl, but for her as well. And she opened up about the lengths they and their doctors took to ensure that the outcome would be as peaceful as possible for their baby.

“We made the excruciating decision to terminate the pregnancy at 21 weeks and five days — nearly six months. We did this out of love: Terminating was the least painful and most humane thing we could do for her,” Utz writes. “We did all we could to take on the physical and emotional suffering ourselves, instead of allowing her to feel it. The physician cut her umbilical cord prior to the termination to ensure that her heart would stop beating and that she’d have as peaceful of an experience as possible. Her pa­thol­ogy report confirmed the doctors’ fatal diagnosis.”

Utz and her husband live in Missouri and she goes on in the piece to detail why getting an abortion there “was one of the most callous and insulting experiences we have ever endured.”

Read the full Op-Ed at The Washington Post.


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‘Horrific experience’

In the latest episode of E! network’s Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim Kardashian went into detail about her experience as the victim of an assault and robbery in Paris last October. As her sisters Khloe and Kourtney listened, the reality star and wife of rapper Kanye West relayed in detail the terrifying reality of the ordeal.

While relaxing in her room at the Hôtel de Pourtalès during Paris Fashion Week last fall, Kardashian said she was dozing when she heard noises outside her room. Assuming it was her sister and a friend who had returned from a night out, she felt something was wrong when she called out but received no answer. The assailants, who were dressed as French policemen, forced a hotel employee to open the doors before handcuffing him and proceeding to restrain Kardashian with duct tape. When she attempted to dial her now former bodyguard on her cellphone, the social media star told her sisters that the attackers snatched her phone from her and threw her on the bed. Having “mentally prepped” herself to be raped, she pleaded with the concierge being held with her to beg the robbers — who did not speak English — to allow them to live for the sake of her children, Kardashian said.

Left bound and gagged in the bathtub, the attackers made off with close to $10 million in jewelry. Kardashian tweeted out after the episode aired saying, “I took a tragic horrific experience and did not let it diminish me, rather grew and evolved and allowed the experience to teach me.”

Ten people were formally charged in January with connection to the crime. Below, see a clip of Kardashian recalling the harrowing experience.

Read the full story at Page Six.


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Gestural feminism

In an opinion piece, New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante highlights what she sees as the problematic message conveyed by “Fearless Girl,” the bronze statue of a small child installed opposite the famous Wall Street “Charging Bull” on the eve of International Women’s Day. The statue is part of State Street Global Advisors’ new campaign to urge companies to add more women to their corporate boards. State Street, the world’s third-largest asset manager, cites improved company performance and increased shareholder value as key reasons for companies to improve gender diversity.

Bellafante, however, takes issue with the “corporate feminism” embodied by the statue because it operates, she argues, with “the singular goal of aiding and abetting a universe of mothers who tuck their daughters in at night whispering, ‘Someday, honey, you can lead the emerging markets and sovereign debt team at Citigroup, and then become a director at Yahoo.’”

Chief among her concerns with the statue is the very firm behind it. State Street sets a poor example for the importance of gender diversity on boards, she argues. While State Street says it is trying to increase its number of female executives in its ranks, at present only five of its 28-person leadership team are women, according to its website.

Bellafante goes on to question the virtuousness of the company’s motives for installing the statue. She doubts that State Street is genuinely concerned with encouraging young girls to be confident and strive for the top, and is critical of the way the firm’s suggestion that greater gender diversity improves financial performance and helps companies reduce government-related issues such as bribery and corruption. This, she notes, harks back to the 19th century temperance movements, when women were used as “moral safeguards” to push forward a capitalist agenda and further enrich wealthy industrialists. In other words, it’s not good enough for companies to decide to care about feminism only when it becomes financially profitable to do so.

Though the statue has been widely celebrated on social media, not all women have been so enamored with it. Last week, in an essay for the website Hypoallergic, Jillian Steinhauer denounced the statue as “fake corporate feminism.” Similarly, in a column for, Erielle Davidson, a former analyst for a Wall Street, firm took issue with the message she interpreted, arguing that the statue “is a reminder of what divides us.”

Bellafante concludes that the statue is an example of “gestural feminism,” not unlike the type she believes the pink pussy hats, ubiquitous at the Women’s March on Washington, represented. She goes on to explain why she thinks statue really only speaks to the Sheryl Sandberg and Ivanka Trump brand of feminism. And she surmises that the real motive behind the statue is an attempt by State Street to divert attention from an inconvenient investigation the Justice Department is conducting on the firm.

Read the full piece at The New York Times.


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‘I Kissed a Girl’

Katy Perry took to the stage on Saturday to accept the National Equality Award at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in Los Angeles. During her acceptance speech the singer discussed what it was like growing up in a strict Christian family and what eventually led her to becoming an advocate for LGBTQ rights.

Referencing her hit song “I Kissed a Girl” Perry told the crowd, “I speak my truths and I paint my fantasies into these little bite-size pop songs. For instance, I kissed a girl and I liked it. Truth be told, I did more than that.” She then went on to ask, “How was I going to reconcile that with a gospel-singing girl raised in youth groups that were pro-conversion camps? What I did know is that I was curious and even then I knew sexuality wasn’t as black and white as this dress.”

While growing up, Perry said, “Homosexuality was synonymous with the word abomination,” and it was only when she discovered her talent for singing and began to meet “people outside my bubble” that her eyes were opened to other people’s experiences. “These people were nothing like I had been taught to fear,” she said. “They were the most free, strong, kind and inclusive people I have ever met. They stimulated my mind, and they filled my heart with joy, and they danced with joy while doing it. These people are actually magic, and they are magic because they are living their truth.”

Perry concluded, “No longer can I sit in silence. I have to stand for what I know is true and that is equality and justice for all, period.” Following the ceremony she tweeted about how thrilled she was at being honored with the award.

Below, watch a video clip of her speech.

Read the full story at The Huffington Post.


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Guiding light

Brittany Diggs, a 25-year-old nursing student from Alabama, was abducted last Tuesday at gunpoint by an unknown assailant. Kidnapped from outside her apartment, the man forced Briggs to drive around Birmingham demanding she withdraw cash from her bank accounts at ATMs across the city.  Insisting that she had nothing of value to offer, the man accused her of lying, demanded she pull the car over and pop the trunk, and then forced her inside. Surveillance footage showing her escaping from the trunk of the car as it sped away from a gas station made national headlines last week.

In an interview with the Today show, Diggs explained how her captor had repeatedly threatened to kill her as she drove, even using her as the getaway driver while he attempted to rob two other couples. Following several failed attempts to withdraw cash, the kidnapper became agitated and demanded she get in the trunk before making one last attempt at a gas station ATM, Diggs said.

A law passed in 2000 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required that all commercial vehicles with trunks must come equipped with release latches in the event that a passenger (or child) becomes trapped inside. Having remembered watching a video on Facebook about the safety latches, Diggs explained that she used the light from her insulin pump to help her search the interior of the car trunk. Parked outside a gas station, she waited for her captor to start the car and begin to drive off before pulling the latch and rolling out the back of the vehicle to safety. Running inside the station, the attendant on duty hid her in the back of his store before calling the police. Her harrowing escape was caught on tape by the gas station’s security cameras but as of yet, her assailant has not been identified.

With all of her personal identification stolen, Diggs has decided to relocate as she now feels unsafe in the city and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help subsidize her move. Hear Diggs tell her frightening story in her own words in the video below.

Read the full story at NBC News.

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Locked up

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British aid worker who was imprisoned in Iran on murky charges last year, is said to be suffering from acute weight loss, hair loss, and loss of mobility.

According to a report by The Mirror, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s health has declined to the point that she is “virtually unable to walk.” Her sister-in-law, Rebecca Jones, told the publication that Zaghari-Ratcliffe also “has problems with her left shoulder, neck and left arm.”

“She had a visit from a neurologist who wanted her to go to hospital but every prison has rejected that, though negotiations are ongoing,” Jones added.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was visiting family in Iran when she was detained by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. She was accused of plotting to topple the Iranian government — the specific charges have not been made public — and sentenced to five years in the country’s notorious Evin prison. She was initially held in solitary confinement, but has since been moved to a general ward.

 Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s 2-year-old daughter Gabriela was with her at the time of her arrest. The child is currently being cared for by her grandparents in Tehran. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, had criticized the British government for failing to publicly condemn his wife’s imprisonment. “It is clear there are other agendas in the relationship the Foreign Office has with Iran,” he said, according to The Independent.

Read the full story at The Mirror.


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Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator for The Blaze, has been suspended from hosting her show for one week, according to a report by the conservative news site The Daily Caller. Lahren had been on the defensive since declaring herself pro-choice last week during a talk show appearance. The report cited multiple inside sources at The Blaze who have knowledge of the situation.

According to The Huffington Post, Lahren incited the ire of her fellow Republicans after appearing on The View on Friday. “I’m pro-choice and here’s why,” she said during her appearance. “I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government but I think that the government should decide what women should do with their bodies.

“I can say, you know what, I am for limited government so stay out of my guns and you can stay out of my body as well,” she added.

Lahren has previously expressed her disdain for the pro-choice movement, so some conservatives accused her of back-peddling on the issue.

But this wasn’t the first time that Lahren indicated her pro-choice leanings. After Lena Dunham (foolishly) expressed her regret over never having the opportunity to get an abortion, Lahren proclaimed during a segment for The Blaze:

“I could care less if Lena Dunham had an abortion, or wants to have an abortion, or talks about abortion.” (And by “care less,” she presumably means “couldn’t care less,” since the former phrase would imply that she cares. But we digress.) Lahren did, however, proceed to label pro-choicers as “straight up baby killers.”

Responding to the controversy over the appearance on The View, Lahren sought to clarify her stance. “Listen, I am not glorifying abortion,” she wrote on Twitter. “I don’t personally advocate for it. I just don’t think it’s the government’s place to dictate.” In another tweet, Larhen said, “I have moderate, conservative, and libertarian views.” She added, “I will never apologize, to anyone, for being an independent thinker.”

By Monday morning, the uproar that simmered over the weekend seemed to come to a boil as Glenn Beck, the founder of The Blaze TV network and publisher of the companion website, took to his Twitter feed to criticize Lahren. Quote tweeting Larhen’s post about being unapologetic for her libertarian views, Beck took issue with her public support for President Trump, saying that Trump’s presidency thus far has been “anything but libertarian.”

Later in the day, according to the Daily Caller report, Beck played a clip on his radio show in which Lahren appeared to change her stance on abortion. He then issued a lecture directed at the embattled host, saying, “It’s very, very clear. But it takes intellectual honesty, and it takes a willingness to actually think these things through and to do more than just read Twitter or Facebook to get your news and your political opinions. You actually have to study things — these things out in your mind. Especially at a time period like today.”

Also on Monday, the official Twitter account for The Blaze, Lahren’s own network, joined in the chorus of criticism, saying “Pro-lifers aren’t the ones being hypocrites, Tomi,” next to a photo of a pocket-sized printout of the U.S. Constitution.

Lahren, 24, has experienced a meteoric rise to fame on The Blaze, where her politically charged commentary on a range of topics has struck a chord with conservatives and stoked controversy with liberals. In December, Lahren went head to head with Daily Show host Trevor Noah in a heated discussion about Trump’s unexpected electoral victory. Video of the segment went viral.

The Daily Caller report said it wasn’t clear if Lahren’s suspension was related to her remarks on The View.

Read more at The Daily Caller and The Huffington Post.


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Sobering stats

Gaming makes teenagers more likely to hold sexist and stereotypical sentiments about women, a new study as found.

The study, conducted by researchers in the U.S. and France, surveyed 13, 520 French teenagers, according to Agence-France Presse. Researchers measured a number of factors, including the amount of video games played per week, amount of television watched per week, religious observance, and sexist attitudes.

Their findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, suggest that teenagers who spend more time playing video games are more likely to display sexist and stereotypical opinions. And this correlation was not limited to male subjects. Laurent Begue, co-author of the study, told the AFP that the correlation may be due to the representation of women in popular video games.

“Content analysis has shown that women are under-represented in popular video games. They have passive roles, they are princesses who need to be saved or secondary, sexualized objects of conquest,” he said.

Stereotyping in video games is not limited to women; men are often portrayed as “more active, armed and muscular,” according to Begue.

The study assessed both boy and girl gamers — 51 to 49 percent of the subject pool, respectively. Results indicated that sexism was higher among males who played video games.

The psychological impact of video games has been a hotly contested issue for some years. Many experts contend that gaming does not lead to increased aggression; in fact, Frontiers in Psychology recently published another study suggesting that violent video games do not affect empathy.

The study on sexism did, in fact, find that video games were not the most influential determinant of whether or not a teenager displays sexist attitudes. “Religious fervor” was a more significant factor, according to the AFP.

Read more at Yahoo News


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Overly strict?

Je’Nan Hayes, a high schooler from Gaithersburg, Maryland, was barred from playing in a regional basketball game earlier this month because she was wearing a hijab.

According to CNN, a referee told the teen’s coach that she would not be able to play in the final without authorization from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). The organization does indeed prohibit headwear during games. Exceptions can be made for head coverings that are worn for religious, cosmetic, or medical reasons — but the association’s rulebook says it must grant approval on an individual basis.

So on March 3, Hayes sat on the bench while her teammates played. NFHS spokesman Bill Reinhard told CNN that the referees had unnecessarily kept the high-schooler out of the game. “Unfortunately the officials made a strict interpretation of the National Federation of State High Schools playing rules for basketball instead of the spirit of the rule designed to ensure safety and competitive fairness,” he explained. “There should have been no denial of participation and we are committed to working with the school and the family to ensure this does not happen again.”

Hayes and her family are now collaborating with the Council on American-Islamic Relations to ask that the rulebook be changed so other Muslim teenagers are not prevented from participating in their sport of choice. The news of the emerged the same week that Nike announced its forthcoming “Pro Hijab” line of performance wear, which is being rolled out with the help of an extensive marketing campaign that includes several high-profile Muslim athletes.

For more on the tussle over Hayes’ hijab, watch the video below:

Read the full story at CNN.


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