Jul 13
Her eye on the news
Très déclassé

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed U.S. President Donald Trump to Paris on Thursday in a reception that can only be described as a bit uncomfortable for all parties involved, the latest episode in Donald Trump’s adventures in awkward handshaking. On a French Official Facebook Live stream, Trump was seen clinging to French first lady Brigitte Macron’s hands for an awkward length of time, pulling her toward him while she appears to be trying to let go. The awkwardness rivaled that of Trump and Emmanuel Macron’s first handshake back in late May that seemed to go on forever and made both men’s knuckles go white. Trump, clutching the first lady, then unleashed the comment, “You know, you’re in such good shape.”

While remarking on a woman’s physical appearance in front of her husband who happens to hold the highest political office in France is cringe worthy enough, Trump then repeated his statement again before turning back to Macron to tell her she is “beautiful,” according to reporters who were on the scene.  While first lady Melania Trump’s reaction was not captured, because her back faced the camera, at one point she can be seen holding Mme. Macron’s arm in a protect embrace as her husband continued to talk.

Having met three times previously in Brussels, Sicily and Hamburg during official summits, the couples seemed to brush off any initial unease and continued with their carefully planned agenda. The U.S. president and first lady will stay through the evening to attend the Bastille Day parade on Friday before heading on to Nice.

Read the full story at The Daily Mail.


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Bridging the gap

In an effort to be more inclusive to passengers on public transportation, the London Underground has announced that it will no longer use the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” in announcements. Instead, Tube employees have reportedly been instructed to use phrases such as “good morning, everyone”

“We want everyone to feel welcome on our transport network. We have reviewed the language that we use in announcements and elsewhere and will make sure that it is fully inclusive, reflecting the great diversity of London,” explained the director of customer strategy at Transport for London, Mark Evers, in a statement.

While the move will likely draw the ire of conservatives who refuse to accept the idea that gender can be non-binary — in Sweden, for example, a kindergarten that avoids use of gendered terms has been denounced by conservatives for encouraging “gender madness” — LGBTQI activists have praised the decision for respecting those who don’t identify as either “ladies” or “gentlemen.”

According to The Daily Mail, a spokesperson for Stonewall, an LGBT equality charity, said, “Language is extremely important to the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community, and the way we use it can help ensure all people feel included.”

The move was also bolstered by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who last month pledged his support for the initiative. “Transport for London serves a vibrant, diverse and multicultural city, and provision of an inclusive transport service is at the heart of TfL’s purpose,” Khan reportedly said, adding, “I am aware, however, that some customers may not relate to or feel comfortable with the way that certain station announcements are made.”

What do you think about it? Vote in our poll.

Read the full story at ITV.


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Getting physical

The Saudi education ministry on Tuesday announced that the ultraconservative kingdom would begin offering physical education for girls in public schools — a first in a country known as one of the most gender-segregated in the world. While no details have yet been offered on what sports or activities will be offered for girls, Saudi officials said that the transition would be gradual and made “in accordance with the rules of sharia.” The announcement came less than a month after King Salman loosened the country’s infamous guardianship laws so that women could access health care and education without the permission of a male guardian.

Conservatives in Saudi Arabia have long been opposed to women’s sports. Some conservatives worry that wearing sportswear might make women immodest — still others claim that sports are contrary to women’s “nature” and that developing muscles makes women too masculine.

“The whole thing is about the idea of protecting a woman’s femininity,” explained Hatoon al-Fassi, a Saudi historian. “This decision is important, especially for public schools. It is essential that girls around the kingdom have the opportunity to build their bodies, to care for their bodies and to respect their bodies.”

Fifty years on from the opening of the first girls’ school in country, schools in Saudi Arabia remain segregated by gender. Four years ago, Saudi Arabia first opened the doors to girls sports in private schools. Previously, girls whose families allowed them to take part in sports had to restrict themselves to private settings.

Despite the excitement generated by the new announcement, Fassi said that the complete absence of any trained female gym teachers and the lack of sports facilities at the majority of girls’ schools would mean that actual progress would lag behind government rhetoric.

“It is very hard,” said Fassi, “because you are starting something from scratch.”

Despite the lack of opportunity, that hasn’t stopped some women in Saudi Arabia from excelling in athletics. A shining example of that phenomenon is Raha Moharrak, who at the age of 27 became the first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest. Moharrak appeared at the Women in the World New York Summit back in April and reflected on her remarkable feat. “I felt both massive and tiny in the universe,” she said. “I was born in the desert and fell in love with mountains and felt humbled to prove to little girls that we are capable of whatever we dream of.” She also talked about the important role sports play in life and why more girls and women in Saudi Arabia should be exposed to them. Watch the full interview below.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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On Thursday, police in India arrested a 29-year-old man who has been the main suspect in the brutal gang rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl near the hill resort of Shimla. The young woman’s horrific death has triggered an outpouring of anger from those living in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh which was known for having some of the lowest rates of sexual violence in the country.

According to crime records, nearly 40,000 cases of rape are reported in India every year. In 2015, nearly 2,200 cases of rape were registered in the capital of New Delhi, a startling average of almost six new reports each day.  Although the Indian government strengthened the laws surrounding crimes of sexual violence after the 2012 rape and murder of a female Delhi student gained national attention, violence against women is still prevalent.

Zahur S Zaidi, the inspector general of Himachal Pradesh police who is spearheading the investigation, said that more arrests are expected to be made as the suspect in custody has agreed to assist investigators in their inquiry. This is the latest in a recent spate of horrifying rape cases in India that have made global headlines.

Read the full story at Yahoo.


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Under fire

Acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department Candice Jackson has apologized for comments made to The New York Times in which she claimed that “90 percent” of sexual assault claims filed on college campuses stem from drunken hookups and bad breakups in which victims decided “six months later” that they had been raped. In the wake of her controversial comments, Jackson had come under fire from critics who accused her of victim-blaming and promoting harmful stereotypes of sexual assault victims. But in a statement made to The Associated Press, Jackson said that her seemingly hostile attitude to sexual assault victims should not be taken to mean that she does not take sexual assault “seriously.”

“What I said was flippant, and I am sorry,” said Jackson. “All sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously — which has always been my position.” In the statement, she added that she herself is a rape survivor and that her comments weren’t meant “to diminish anyone’s experience.”

Jackson had been responsible for organizing Thursday’s listening sessions about the impact of the Education Department’s Title IX sexual assault guidance, as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos continues to push for a reconsideration of guidance issued by the Obama administration in 2011 that called for education officials to consider a “preponderance of evidence” standard rather than a “clear and convincing” evidence standard during campus judicial proceedings. Victims’ advocates had celebrated the move because it made it easier for students accused of sexual assault to be found responsible during campus adjudications. Lawyers for the accused, however, and well-respected politically neutral legal scholars had questioned whether the directive unfairly tilted the campus adjudication process in favor of victims.

There are strong signs that DeVos and Jackson plan to do whatever possible to roll back the Obama era Title IX guidance. Devos’ family foundation has previously donated to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties group known for disputing the 2011 guidelines and representing students accused of sexual assault. Jackson, meanwhile, is best known as the author of 2005 book Their Lives: Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine, which shares the stories of women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct. Despite her apparent desire to protect sexual assault victims of men in power, Jackson, an outspoken opponent of feminism, has also called women who accused Donald Trump of sexual violence “fake victims” who lie for “political gain.” In an interview with the Times, Jackson said she had received hundreds of letters from mostly male college students who had been accused of rape or sexual assault, and suggested that the campus adjudication process was “weighted in favor of a plaintiff.”

Jess Davidson, the managing director of the group End Rape on Campus, told Time magazine that the current system has made campus tribunals more fair, not less, because of the difficulty of definitively proving accusations and because the number of students who face sexual assault vastly outnumbers the number of those facing false sexual assault accusations. Jackson’s comments, she added, “put a pit in my stomach” because they came from the “person who is nationally in charge of investigating all these cases.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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'Save Charlie Gard'

A young British couple whose infant son is severely ill and on life support in a London hospital barged out of a court hearing on Thursday after a line of questioning upset them. Connie Yates and Chris Gard arrived at Britain’s High Court on Thursday with renewed hopes. They have been locked in a legal battle for months in which they have been trying to secure permission to take their 11-month-old son Charlie out of Great Ormond Street Hospital to seek medical treatment elsewhere for the rare condition with which he is afflicted.

Charlie was born with mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare genetic disease that has left him brain damaged. He’s unable to breathe without assistance from a ventilator. Hospital officials have prevented Yates and Gard from taking him elsewhere for treatment, insisting that the baby is doomed, that any attempt to treat him further could cause him more pain and that he should be allowed to die with dignity. Yates and Gard have mounted a spirited legal battle in an effort to do everything to preserve their son’s life, but have been shot down at every turn by the U.K. legal system. Their story has drawn worldwide attention and President Donald Trump and Pope Francis have publicly offered to help — all of which has been to no avail since the baby’s parents are legally blocked from taking up those offers.

At Thursday’s hearing, an American doctor was testifying that if the boy were brought to the U.S., there is a chance an experimental treatment being performed there could help him. “We have a much better understanding of the data,” the doctor, whose identity has been withheld, testified. He said new information has emerged in the months since the court first rejected the parents’ bid to bring Charlie to the U.S.

The treatment, known as nucleoside therapy, would not be a cure, the doctor cautioned, but the physician speculated that it could lead to a 10 percent improvement in Charlie’s ability to use his muscles. As for the chances that Charlie’s brain function could be restored to any degree, the doctor did not provide an assessment.

During the proceedings, tensions erupted when the judge was reading previous statements made by the couple, which they perceived to be a misrepresentation of what they’d said. “We said he’s not suffering and not in pain,” Yates shouted at the judge. “If he was we wouldn’t be up here fighting!” Her husband then slammed down the cup of water he was holding and the couple stormed out. They returned to the packed courtroom later and the judge acknowledged the enormous stress they were under. Meanwhile, the hospital remained steadfast in its defense of its position to not release Charlie.

Outside the courthouse, news footage showed, supporters who carried signs and screamed, “Save Charlie Gard!” A representative for the family read a statement in front of reporters and TV cameras. The substance of the remarks was so emotional, the man was overcome and nearly broke down. Watch in the video below.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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Six teenage girls from Afghanistan are headed to the U.S. to see the robot they designed compete in an international technology competition after President Donald Trump stepped in to reverse U.S. officials’ decisions that had twice denied the girls visas to enter the country. Politico broke the news on Wednesday evening of the last-minute decision that will let the high-schoolers, who hail from western Afghanistan, to attend the competition. In a frustrating twist, the robot the teens have built, which is able to sort balls, had been cleared for entry into the U.S., but the girls’ requests for visas, inexplicably, been denied, despite the teens having gone to great lengths to secure the proper documentation.

News of the girls rejected attempts to obtain visas went viral last week and stirred up global outrage. The girls had made two separate 500-mile journeys to the American embassy in Kabul, but had still been denied visas. State Department officials gave no reason for the rejection. Criticism mounted and after Trump was made aware of the case, Politico reported, he called on the National Security Council to look into finding a way for the girls to be given travel permissions. According to Dina Powell, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, “The State Department worked incredibly well with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that this case was reviewed and handled appropriately.” The girls will now be allowed to enter the country and stay for 10 days under what’s known as the “parole” system, a measure used in extreme circumstances.

“We could not be prouder of this delegation of young women who are also scientists,” Powell told Politico. “They represent the best of the Afghan people and embody the promise that their aspirations can be fulfilled. They are future leaders of Afghanistan and strong ambassadors for their country.”

Indeed, the girls were thrilled about the news of the reversal. According to The Associated Press, on Thursday the all-girl team had once again made the trek from their hometown in Herat to Kabul where they visited the U.S. embassy to pick up their paperwork. After that, they piled in a cab and headed for the airport.

Lida Azizi, a 15-year-old team member, was thrilled at the adventure that is now before her. “I am very happy. This is such an important trip for us,” she told the AP.

The FIRST Global Challenge is taking place July 16-18 in Washington, D.C.

Read the full story at Politico.


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Cruel & demeaning

In Arkansas, abortion rights groups and lawyers are preparing to challenge four measures passed by the stage legislature that would, among other restrictions, ban a common abortion procedure and require women to obtain consent from their sexual partners or family members before having an abortion.

“With this package of laws, we’re definitely seeing a new, creative and especially cruel attempt by Arkansas to make abortion more difficult, if not impossible for women to access — and to stigmatize and demean them in the meantime,” Hillary Schneller, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told NBC News.

Among the new laws is a prohibition on a “safe and medically proven” abortion method known as dilation and evacuation, according to Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU. Since dilation and evacuation is used in nearly all second-semester abortions, Schneller added, the ban “would essentially end access to second-trimester abortions in Arkansas.”

Another of the new laws would require women to get consent from sexual partners on how to dispose of fetal tissue before they can undergo an abortion, according to the lawsuit. Not only would this “require that a physician performing an abortion notify a woman’s sexual partner, or parent if she’s a minor, of their right to participate in the disposition of tissue from an abortion,” Schneller told NBC News, but would also “create incredible delays” before a woman could obtain an abortion.

“Abortion,” Schneller noted, “is a time-sensitive procedure.”

In an interview with Bustle published last week, state Representative Kim Hammer, a Republican who is the bill’s sponsor, defended the requirement by suggesting that since a man is “there at conception” he deserved the right “to be there through the whole process.”

Two other laws would also require doctors who perform abortions on minors to preserve fetal tissue and to obtain additional medical records before performing an abortion — measures that activists say are meant to make the procedure more difficult and time-consuming to undergo. Another law being challenged by Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Little Rock Family Planning services allows for abortion clinics to be shut down if they’re found in violation of any state law — no matter how minor the infraction.

While people worry about abortion rights at the federal level, Amiri noted, legislators at the state level have been determinedly working to effectively outlaw the procedure themselves. “Since 2010,” she explained, “lawmakers have passed over 300 abortion restrictions throughout the country.” According to the Guttmacher Institute, 22 out of 50 states had “extremely hostile” restrictions against abortion as of 2016.

On Thursday, the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive rights will have a hearing for a federal lawsuit against the new laws. The goal, lawyers say, is to prompt an emergency order from a judge to prevent the state from enacting the new abortion restrictions while the lawsuit is considered.

Read the full story at NBC News.


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