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May 12
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Women in science

Nearly 200 years after her death, fossil finder Mary Anning is finally getting the credit she deserves for her revolutionary work pioneering the field of paleontology — and a feature film to boot.

While the name of the legendary fossil hunter is relatively unknown, scholars say that Anning was emphatically denied credit from the scientific community for the “momentous discoveries” she made during her life — including by the so-called “founding father of paleontology,” Georges Cuvier. Despite that, many people today have heard of Anning — at least indirectly. Her life is widely believed to be the inspiration for the popular tongue twister “She sells seashells by the sea shore.” Only Anning wasn’t actually selling sea shells, but ammonites, belemnites, ichthyosaurs and other fossils she found on her walks along the World Heritage-listed Jurassic Coast of Lyme Regis, a small town in West Dorset in England.

Anning, whose father died of tuberculosis in 1810 when she was just 11 years old, made a living for her working class family by finding and selling fossils as souvenirs to tourists — or when she found something “particularly spectacular,” to museums. In 1812, Anning successfully excavated the full skeleton of an almost 5-meter long ichthyosaur, an ancient crocodile-like marine reptile that went extinct 90 million years ago. It was the first complete ichthyosaurus skeleton to ever be seen by the London scientific community, according to Dr. Adrian Currie, a professor of anthropology at the University of Exeter. In 1823, she discovered the skeleton of a plesiosaur, a massive Mesozoic-era marine reptile whose likely appearance serves as the inspiration for depictions of the Loch Ness monster.

But while her work was widely known to the scientific community at the time, as a woman Anning wasn’t allowed to become a member of the Geological Society — or even to the enter the building. And Cuvier, incredulous that a working class woman could be capable of such discoveries, inspected the skeletons and declared them both fakes.

“Originally he thought that this must have been some kind of hoax … but he did admit later on that he was wrong,” said Currie.

Today, Anning is considered by many scholars as “the greatest fossilist the world has known,” according to the British Society for the History of Science. An upcoming biopic about her life, Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet, is set to begin principal photography in March.

Read the full story at ABC News.

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'Impunity'

The rape and murder of a nurse in Bangladesh just weeks after a female student was burned to death has sparked ongoing protests and renewed calls for greater protection for women in the South Asian country.

Shahinoor Akhter Tania, 24, who worked as a nurse in a hospital in Dhaka, according to a medical report, was raped and pushed off a bus, while heading towards her hometown in Kishoreganj, about 62 miles away, on Monday.

The police have since arrested five individuals but are still investigating the incident.

Tania’s death comes as the country is still reeling over the killing of Nusrat Jahan, a student burned to death last month for not withdrawing a sexual harassment complaint, according to the police, leading to protests calling for women’s safety.

“We should be treating this as something of the highest national priority, not just in terms of arresting people but in terms of making sure another woman doesn’t go through it,” said Sara Hossain, a Bangladeshi lawyer and a human rights activist.

“Nusrat’s case was very extreme. But why do these cases keep on happening? One of the reasons is the kind of impunity that exists, so people can get away [with these crimes],” she added.

About 950 women were victims of rape last year, according to a study conducted by the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, a women’s rights organization in Dhaka.

“The number is on the increase. In April this year, we found 401 cases of violence against women, out of which many were rape cases,” Maleka Banu, general secretary of the group told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We say that women can work, but when they step outside, this is the kind of things they have to face. You can’t solve this problem by addressing individual issues, we need to address this problem in totality,” she said.

Following Tania’s death, protests took place this week in both Kishoreganj and Dhaka.

The police have arrested the driver and the conductor of the bus Tania was traveling on, but have refused to comment on the event before their investigation is completed.

The medical team that examined Tania’s body said it believes that the 24-year-old was raped.

“There was injury in the vaginal region and it was also bleeding. There were defensive wounds and bruises on her face, hand and neck,” said Dr. Habibur Rahman, Kishoreganj’s civil surgeon, quoting the preliminary autopsy report.

“We believe that she died because of the wound behind her head. We feel that that took place because she was pushed out of the bus. We will be conducting more tests,” added Rahman.

The youngest among six siblings, Tania, according to her brother, was the “brightest amongst them.”

“My mother passed away in December. Tania wanted to come home to spend the first few days of Ramadan with my father because she knew he felt lonely,” Shafiqul Islam Sujon, Tania’s elder brother said.

“She had the knack to win over people’s hearts, no matter who she talked to. She took care of us both mentally and financially. And now she is gone. My heart pains whenever I think about her,” Sujon said.

(Reporting by Naimul Karim; Editing by Jason Fields, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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A national disgrace

A disturbing new report from the Centers for Disease Control has called out the state of American healthcare — and health insurance coverage — after revealing that approximately 60 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths in the United States are fully preventable.

According to the CDC, maternal mortality in the U.S. is being exacerbated largely due to lack of access to health care and missed or late diagnoses — problems that can be attributed at least in part to the country’s continued failure to provide poor women with adequate health insurance coverage, maternity leave or even basic postpartum care. Of the 700 women who die from pregnancy or childbirth each year, approximately 31 percent die during pregnancy, 36 percent during childbirth or a week after giving birth, and 33 percent due to ongoing complications within a year of giving birth.

“Every death reflects a web of missed opportunities,” wrote the CDC in the report.

The U.S. is the world’s only developed country to see its maternal mortality rates increase in recent years, a trend that has correlated strongly with Republican-led efforts to strip women of access to family-planning services and prenatal care. A legal loophole that allows low-income mothers covered by Medicaid to have their health insurance coverage revoked just 60 days after giving birth also appears to be a major contributing factor to the crisis. According to some studies, as many as 40 percent of American women never even receive postpartum care from a health care provider, leading to countless unnecessary deaths. African-American women, statistics show, are particularly vulnerable — and die from pregnancy-related causes at three to four times the rate of white women in the U.S.

“We are the only high-income country in the world without paid maternity leave,” said Alison Stuebe, maternal-fetal medicine physician at North Carolina Health Care, in an interview with HuffPost. “Moms covered by pregnancy Medicaid are kicked off 60 days after having a baby. These are decisions we have made as a society … Moms are dying in America because we don’t take care of them.”

Read the full story at HuffPost.

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Newsletter

A BATTLE BEGINS
“1 in 4 women have an abortion by 45. I’m one of them.”

Busy Philipps — America’s only female late-night host — devoted an unforgettable opening monologue on Tuesday to Georgia’s horrific ruling that, come January 1st, women seeking abortion in the state will be regarded as murderers, and face a potential sentence of life imprisonment.

The decision by Governor Brian Kemp — which also makes it illegal to seek an abortion out-of-state — led Philipps to rewrite her entire script, which was meant to be a ‘Who Wore What’ look at the previous night’s Met Gala. “I’m sorry if it’s jarring”, Phillips continued, “but being a woman is f—ing jarring. Having a regular Tuesday, then suddenly being reminded people are trying to police your body, then you just have to go back to work.”

Philipps is not the only one speaking out. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’ response to the bill became her most-liked tweet ever, and while Georgia’s ACLU has vowed to take the bill to court, we’re reminded today of comedian Joe Rogan’s ever-relevant quote: “If men had children, abortion would be an app on your phone.”

SYRIAN SANCTUARY
A group of Syrian women have built a female-only village to protect and elevate those displaced by ISIS and the civil war (as well as any woman tired of being treated as a second-class citizen under patriarchy.)

“The village“, 35-year-old resident Fatma Emin told CNN, “is a response to every person who thinks a woman is the weaker sex in the society, or that she can’t manage her life or manage her children.”

Its name, Jinwar, means “women’s land” in Kurdish. Men are allowed to visit during daylight, but forbidden from staying once darkness falls.
THEIR LOSS
“Oh, you’re pitching me? I thought we were meeting up to get to know each other.”

Having lost count of the amount of meetings where men with money suddenly implied they wanted to make more than an investment, female entrepreneurs around the world are increasingly bypassing male firms altogether, and taking their ideas to female funders only.

While it’s long been known that female-led businesses typically outperform male ones, traditional investors appear yet to get the message. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, venture capitalists consistently describe young male entrepreneurs as “promising,” and women the exact same age as “inexperienced.”

THE KIDS ARE ALT RIGHT

The pendulum had swung. And now it was stuck.”

One day, a 13-year-old boy feels alienated at school. The next — with the help of internet forums — he’s a member of the alt-right.

That’s what happened to a Washington family, who bravely shared the story of their nightmare year, and how they painstakingly fought to get their child back.

CANCEL YOUR PLANS

The streaming giants are going head-to-head this weekend in a battle of the docs, but the winner’s already been determined — it’s all of us.

Hulu is sending the newly-released Ask Dr. Ruth into the ring, the first documentary to cover the life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America’s 90-year-old “Goddess of Good Sex.”

Netflix have countered by uploading the long-anticipated Knock Down the House, which features never-before-seen footage from inside the historic Ocasio-Cortez campaign. You’ll need to set aside three hours (and six minutes) to get through them both.

THERE’S MORE

“It feels like you’re not really working, you’re just kind of hanging out with a girlfriend.” On the newest episode of TBD, Phoebe Robinson tells Tina Brown what it’s like to interview Michelle Obama.

The New York Times is upping its parenting content, starting with this myth-busting look into the pressures women face to have a “natural birth” — whatever that means.

360

In January, a high-tech vibrator called Osé won an innovation award from CES, a major annual tech convention. Weeks later, CES rescinded the award, with a representative reportedly citing a regulation that disqualified “immoral, obscene, indecent, [or] profane” products.  But now, in another about-face, the award has been re-designated to the sex toy, as Engadget reports.

Jean Foster, senior vice president of marketing and communications at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which runs CES, released a statement that bluntly admitted “CTA did not handle this award properly.”

“This prompted some important conversations internally and with external advisors and we look forward to taking these learnings to continue to improve the show,” Foster added.

The incident earlier this year garnered widespread media attention, in large part thanks to Lora Haddock, founder of Lora DiCarlo, the company that makes the vibrator. The revocation of the award stopped Haddock from showcasing Osé at the convention, but she did exhibit at a media event that runs in tandem with CES. According to Fortune, Haddock displayed signs condemning the CTA for its decision to take back the award. She also published an open letter decrying the “biases” that “smother innovation by blocking access to funding, exposure, and consumers that could take brands and products to the next level.”

In the CTA’s decision to ban Osé, many saw a problematic approach towards the types of sex and female health products that are allowed to showcase at CES. The event is certainly not sex averse; a VR porn company regularly exhibits there, for instance. Breast pumps and fertility trackers can be seen on the floor, and a kegel device by the company OhMiBod even won a CES award in 2016. But these products, according to critics, do not solely exist to deliver female pleasure — unlike Osé.

The CTA now says that it plans to announce updated policies before the next CES event in January 2020. For her part, according to Engadget, Haddock noted that “the incredible support and attention we’ve received in the wake of our experience highlights the need for meaningful changes.”

“[W]e are hopeful,” she added, “that our small company can continue to contribute meaningful progress toward making CES inclusive for all.”

Read more at Engadget.

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05.12.19

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