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On Tuesday, the world was treated to the first-ever image of a black hole, a feat made possible by the years-long efforts of more than 200 researchers. Among those who played a crucial role, according to CNN, was 29-year-old Katie Bouman, who “developed a crucial algorithm that helped devise imaging methods.”

As a graduate student in computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bouman worked on a project to develop imaging methods that would capture a black hole in a galaxy known as M87. Because the black hole was incredibly far away — more than 26,000 light years — it was also incredibly hard to take a picture of it. As Bouman explained in a 2016 Ted Talk, obtaining  the image with a single-dish telescope was impossible; the instrument would have to be the size of the Earth.

Instead, researchers relied on the Event Horizon Telescope initiative, a global network of telescopes that assembled mass quantities of data about M87.  “Each telescope in the worldwide network works together,” Bouman explained in 2016. “Linked through the precise timing of atomic clocks, teams of researchers at each of the sites freeze light by collecting thousands of terabytes of data.”

Bouman’s algorithm was among several that helped piece together an image from the data. “We developed ways to generate synthetic data and used different algorithms and tested blindly to see if we can recover an image,” she explains to CNN.

Due to begin a job as an assistant professor at California Institute of Technology in the fall, Bouman stressed that Tuesday’s groundbreaking image was the result of a collaborative effort. “No one of us could’ve done it alone,” she said. “It came together because of lots of different people from many backgrounds.”

Read the full story at CNN.

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Insanity

Anti-abortion lawmakers in Texas are working to pass a new bill that would make women who legally obtained abortions culpable of murder, a crime that can be punished with the death penalty under Texas law.

The new legislation is authored by Republican State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a self-proclaimed family man who has been married five times. According to Tinderholt, threatening women with the death penalty is the only way to make them “more personally responsible” and ensure “equal protection” of life inside and “outside the womb.”

In what is believed to be the first hearing of its kind, on Monday and Tuesday lawmakers listened to public testimony from advocates for the extreme proposal during a marathon hearing before the Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence.

“God’s word says, ‘He who sheds man’s blood, by man — the civil government — his blood will be shed,’” declared Sonya Gonnella, one of hundreds of anti-abortion advocates to testify during the hearing.

One Democrat in attendance, State Rep. Victoria Neave, decried the logic of so-called “pro-life” activists who were willing to charge women with the death penalty over an abortion.

“I’m trying to reconcile in my head the arguments that I heard tonight about how essentially one is okay with subjecting a woman to the death penalty for the exact — to do to her the exact same thing that one is alleging she is doing to a child,” said Neave.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.

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‘Gwen went light’

Fosse/Verdon, a new FX miniseries on the life and work of famous Broadway director Bob Fosse and dancer Gwen Verdon, is being billed as a post #MeToo examination of the myth of “the auteur, usually male, who is doing everything himself.”

Originally intended as an adaptation of Sam Wasson’s 2013 biography Fosse, the film’s concept was revised after producers decided that the story would be incomplete if it ignored the vital ways Verdon, Fosse’s wife, contributed to his success.

“The series, as it goes on, is really about the unsung role that Gwen, Bob’s wife and collaborator, played in forming his work,” producer Steven Levenson told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s about how things actually get made.”

The series also examines the stark differences in how Fosse, an infamous womanizer, and Verdon capitalized on their individual and collaborative successes.

“We felt that in telling this story now, we have an added responsibility to really talk about abuse of power,” said Levenson. “Bob used his power for good and bad, and we want to be honest about the way that he interacted with young women especially, and the pressure that those women were under to go along to get along.”

Actress Michelle Williams, who will play the role of Verdon alongside Sam Rockwell as Fosse, said that a key aspect of their respective characters was the alleged emotional and sexual abuse they both endured as children.

“Sam and I would talk about them as twins,” she recalled. “They come from this very similar place, these abusive backgrounds, and it manifests inside of them in different ways. Bob went dark, and Gwen went light. Gwen wanted to rise above everything, she refused to feel pain, whereas Bob wanted to delve into it.”

Read the full story at the Hollywood Reporter.

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‘Telling the story’

A mysterious young woman dressed in white has become the symbol of resistance against Sudan’s autocratic president Omar al-Bashir after she was seen leading a massive protest from the top of a car in Khartoum. As tens of thousands of people crowded the roads in front of the country’s military headquarters, the young revolutionary could be heard calling for an end to Bashir’s systematic oppression of women through Sharia law.

Speaking to CNN, photographer Lana Haroun said she was at the protest on Monday night when she took a picture of the woman that has since gone viral internationally.

“She was trying to give everyone hope and positive energy and she did it. She was representing all Sudanese women and girls and she inspired every woman and girl at the sit-in. She was telling the story of Sudanese women … she was perfect,” Haroun recalled.

According to interfaith educator Hind Makki, the young revolutionary’s garb appeared to be carefully chosen as “a callback to the clothing worn by our mothers & grandmothers in the ’60s, ’70s, & ’80s who dressed like this while they marched the streets demonstrating against previous military dictatorships.”

Bashir, who took power in Sudan with the help of Islamists in 1989, has faced rising protests since the government tripled the price of bread in December. According to Jehanne Henry, a representative of Human Rights Watch in Sudan, women have historically been deeply involved in the country’s political uprisings and movements.

“For many women this regime is synonymous with all types of repression,” said Henry. “It is not surprising that they are seeing this as an opportunity to change things that matter to them.”

Watch video of the mystery woman leading the protest below.

Interested in stories about women fighting for gender equality in Africa? Hear more about this topic at the 10th annual Women in the World Summit from the panel “Toppling Taboos” on Thursday, October 11. Watch the livestream on our website, and see the full agenda here.

Read the full story at the Guardian.

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Factually fraudulent

Unplanned, an anti-abortion propaganda film released in a limited number of theaters last week, earned more than $6 million during its opening weekend after being promoted by evangelicals and top Republicans.

Based on the factually questionable memoir by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who claimed she became an anti-abortion activist after witnessing a 13th-week abortion that records show never took place, the film has been hotly criticized for its gory and medically impossible depiction of the procedure. In the scene, a 13-week-old fetus is depicted fighting to escape from doctors during a surgical abortion, despite the fact that scientists say it’s impossible for a fetus to feel pain or sense danger at that stage of development.

“There is no neurological capability for awareness of danger,” Jennifer Villavicencio, a fellow at the nonpartisan American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explained to the New York Times. “That part of the brain is simply not there yet.”

The film takes other liberties with reality, including by depicting Planned Parenthood as a “billion-dollar corporation” that encourages women to get abortions so they can profit off of them — despite the organization’s status as a nonprofit with only 3 percent of its budget allocated for abortion services. Still, the film has been embraced top conservatives such as Vice President Mike Pence, Donald Trump Jr., and Senator Ted Cruz as anti-abortion activists continue their push to make the procedure illegal nationwide.

Read the full story at the Cut.

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04.12.19

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