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May 25
Her eye on the news
Priorities

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has unveiled a sweeping proposal she calls the Family Bill of Rights, which would alleviate financial pressure on families with infants, establish a national paid family leave program, and require insurers to cover fertility treatments such as IVF, among other issues.

The plan, the presidential hopeful said in a statement, “will make all families stronger, regardless of who you are or what your ZIP code is.”

To finance the plan, her campaign said, she would call for a tax on Wall Street transactions to generate up to $1 trillion in new revenue over 10 years. For instance, a $1,000 stock purchase would be taxed at $5, according to The New York Times.

The plan — which the senator from New York said she would make a priority in her first 100 days in the White House — would include the distribution of starter kits for an infant’s first month at home, including diapers, blankets, onesies, and a small mattress. In addition, the proposal would address a shortage of obstetricians in rural areas, assist states in creating universal prekindergarten, provide tax credits for adoption, and prohibit discrimination in adoption.

The senator said the plan would “level the playing field” in the U.S.

Heidi Hartmann, the president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonpartisan think tank, told the Times that in states with paid family leave programs, women and their babies are healthier, helping mothers return to work.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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Perseverance

After Isabella de la Houssaye was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in 2018, she decided to embark on outdoor adventures with each of her five children: hiking a medieval pilgrimage route through Spain, running marathons in Alaska and Kazakhstan, completing an Ironman in South Korea. The New York Times followed her as she made a grueling trek up Argentina’s mount Aconcagua with her 22-year-old daughter, Bella. De la Houssaye said she hoped to teach Bella about “joy and suffering alike.”

Before her diagnosis, the 55-year-old mother was an ardent mountain climber, marathon runner, and athlete who imparted her love for athleticism and the outdoors to her children. But cancer treatments have weakened her severely; she now weighs less than 100 pounds, has brittle bones from chemotherapy, and struggles with nausea.

And mount Aconcagua is by no means an easy climb for even the healthiest athletes. Over the course of two weeks, those who undertake the mission must endure freezing temperatures, frigid winds, and altitudes so high, it becomes difficult to breathe. Only 40 percent of climbers make it to the top, according to the Times.

Both de la Houssaye and Bella struggled throughout the journey, worn down by exhaustion and the harsh environment. The altitude made de la Houssaye vomit and, on one morning, she refused to leave her tent. Bella, too, had breakdowns brought on by exhaustion. But mother and daughter ultimately made it to the top of the mountain.

“It was so important to me that Bella and I have this experience together,” she told the Times. “I really wanted her to see that when things get hard, you can find a place inside yourself to keep going.”

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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Inspiration

Katelyn Ohashi wowed the world when a video of her fierce floor routine went viral in January, but she had a long road to the perfect 10 she scored for that performance.

In a new video interview with the BBC, the former UCLA gymnast, who graduated this spring, opened up about the body-shaming she endured from coaches and spectators as a child growing up in gymnastics, saying that at one point, she was left feeling so self-conscious, she “hated everything” about herself.

“You start normalizing things because that’s what you know, and you grow up surrounded by people that are going through the same thing as you,” Ohashi said, explaining that female gymnasts face extreme pressure to become as thin as possible. They don’t learn about healthy eating, she said — they learn not to eat.

“When you look back on it, I do think it’s a form of abuse,” she says. “I was told I didn’t look like a gymnast. I was told I looked like I’d swallowed an elephant, or looked like a pig.”

Things changed when she she began attending UCLA. There, the coaches made it clear that her mental well-being would be prioritized over her body shape. She began to regain her love of the sport and stop worrying about her appearance. She became a national champion in floor exercise and an Internet sensation as videos of her performances went viral.

Ohashi, who graduated with a degree in gender studies, says she now hopes to work to support women’s empowerment. “Being comfortable with the only person that matters — yourself — is something that you can forever work towards,” she said. “You’re the only person that has your back, and you’re the only person that has your skin 100 percent of the time.”

Watch the video interview at BBC News.

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Delayed

The Obama administration said in 2016 that abolitionist and activist Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill by 2020 — in time for the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. But on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the redesign of the bills would be delayed — by eight years.

Addressing lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee, Mnuchin said he needs to prioritize anti-counterfeiting measures for the $10 and $50 bills, according to The Hill. The task of redesigning the $20 bill, he said, would likely fall to one of his successors.

“The primary reason we’ve looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues,” Mnuchin said. “Based upon this, the $20 bill will now not come out until 2028; the $10 and the $50 will come out with new features beforehand.”

Mnuchin’s predecessor, Jacob Lew, set the redesign in motion around three years ago. He had initially planned to bump Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill and replace him with a woman, but was met with a swell of outrage from fans of the musical Hamilton.

The decision to replace Jackson’s image with that of Tubman is particularly significant. Jackson, in addition to being a military hero and the country’s seventh president, was a slave owner; Tubman was an escaped slave who helped usher other slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

President Trump, an admirer of Jackson, said during 2016 campaign that the bid to redesign the $20 is “pure political correctness.” He added that he thinks Tubman is “fantastic,” and suggested putting her image on a new $2 bill.

A woman’s image has not appeared on American paper currency since Martha Washington was briefly honored on the $1 silver certificate in the late 19th century.

According to The Hill, lawmakers have introduced bipartisan legislation ordering the Treasury Department to move forward with the redesign, but it is not clear if the legislation has sufficient backing to pass through both chambers.

Read more at The Hill.

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Taken to task

In the wake of a damning New York Times report that claimed Nike reduced or withheld payment from athletes who were pregnant or had recently given birth, two congresswomen are pressing the company for details about its treatment of sponsored female athletes.

Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) wrote a letter to Nike chief executive Mark Parker saying they “are deeply concerned by recent reports that Nike has reduced sponsorship payments, or ceased payment entirely, for female athletes during their pregnancy and postpartum recovery,” according to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the letter.

Beutler and Roybal-Allard, who are co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care, asked Nike to specify how often it has stopped paying female athletes for reasons linked to pregnancy and childbirth, and whether male athletes are subjected to similar pay cuts after they become fathers.

The congresswomen also asked if there are protections that are in place for pregnant women who receive Nike sponsorship. Following the Times report, Nike said it would add pregnancy protection clauses to new contracts, but did not specify whether existing contracts would also be updated.

In the Times report and an accompanying video, Olympic runner Alysia Montaño and other athletes called out Nike for the discrepancy between the messages of female empowerment in its ads and its treatment of the women athletes behind the scenes.

Montaño said Nike told her that it would pause her contract after she revealed she wanted to have a baby. She also lost her health insurance with the United States Olympic Committee because she did not place in top-tier races while having her children.

Olympian Kara Goucher told the Times that Nike would not pay her while she was not racing. When her infant son became seriously ill, she felt compelled to leave him in the hospital so she could prepare for a race. During her pregnancy, which was high risk, she also made unpaid appearances on behalf of the company.

“Proclaiming the principles of equal treatment and fair pay is laudable — but it should be accompanied by corresponding action,” Beutler and Roybal-Allard told the Post. “While we welcome Nike’s response, we’ll be watching to see what happens next.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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05.25.19

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