NOW President Toni Van Pelt Addresses Supreme Court Rally for LGBT Rights

Toni Van Pelt spoke this morning at a rally organized by the ACLU legal team on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Source: NOW President Toni Van Pelt Addresses Supreme Court Rally for LGBT Rights | National Organization for Women

Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil

NASA chief Charles Bolden recalls the historic trajectory of the “human computer” who played a key role in the Apollo 11 moon landing, and as a female African-American in the 1960s, shattered stereotypes in the process.
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Katherine Johnson, photographed at Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

When I was growing up, in segregated South Carolina, African-American role models in national life were few and far between. Later, when my fellow flight students and I, in training at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi, clustered around a small television watching the Apollo 11 moon landing, little did I know that one of the key figures responsible for its success was an unassuming black woman from West Virginia: Katherine Johnson. Hidden Figures is both an upcoming book and an upcoming movie about her incredible life, and, as the title suggests, Katherine worked behind the scenes but with incredible impact.

When Katherine began at NASA, she and her cohorts were known as “human computers,” and if you talk to her or read quotes from throughout her long career, you can see that precision, that humming mind, constantly at work. She is a human computer, indeed, but one with a quick wit, a quiet ambition, and a confidence in her talents that rose above her era and her surroundings.

“In math, you’re either right or you’re wrong,” she said. Her succinct words belie a deep curiosity about the world and dedication to her discipline, despite the prejudices of her time against both women and African-Americans. It was her duty to calculate orbital trajectories and flight times relative to the position of the moon—you know, simple things. In this day and age, when we increasingly rely on technology, it’s hard to believe that John Glenn himself tasked Katherine to double-check the results of the computer calculations before his historic orbital flight, the first by an American. The numbers of the human computer and the machine matched.

With a slide rule and a pencil, Katherine advanced the cause of human rights and the frontier of human achievement at the same time. Having graduated from high school at 14 and college at 18 at a time when African-Americans often did not go beyond the eighth grade, she used her amazing facility with geometry to calculate Alan Shepard’s flight path and took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon to orbit it, land on it, and return safely to Earth.

I was so proud of Katherine as I sat with hundreds of other guests in the East Room of the White House and watched as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama last year. Katherine’s great mind and amazing talents advanced our freedoms at the most basic level—the freedom to pursue the biggest dreams we can possibly imagine and to step into any room in the country and take a seat at the table because our expertise and excellence deserve it. Katherine, now 97, took her seat without fanfare. As far as not being equal was concerned, she said, “I didn’t have time for that. My dad taught us ‘you are as good as anybody in this town, but you’re no better.’ ” I’d posit that Katherine was better—not only at math but also at applying her talents with the precision and beauty possible only in mathematics.  She achieved the perfect parabola—casting herself to the stars and believing she could chart the journey home.

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2016/08/katherine-johnson-the-nasa-mathematician-who-advanced-human-rights

‘The Way People Look at Us Has Changed’: Muslim Women on Life in Europe

SEPT. 2, 2016  The NY Times

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Saima Ashraf, 39, at the Barking Town Hall in London, where she is a leader in the local government. She said such an achievement would not have been possible for her as a veiled woman in her home country, France. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The storm over bans on burkinis in more than 30 French beach towns has all but drowned out the voices of Muslim women, for whom the full-body swimsuits were designed. The New York Times solicited their perspective, and the responses — more than 1,000 comments from France, Belgium and beyond — went much deeper than the question of swimwear.

What emerged was a portrait of life as a Muslim woman, veiled or not, in parts of Europe where terrorism has put people on edge. One French term was used dozens of times: “un combat,” or “a struggle,” to live day to day. Many who were born and raised in France described confusion at being told to go home.

Courts have struck down some of the bans on burkinis — the one in Nice, the site of a horrific terror attack on Bastille Day, was overturned on Thursday — but the debate is far from over.

“For years, we have had to put up with dirty looks and threatening remarks,” wrote Taslima Amar, 30, a teacher in Pantin, a suburb of Paris. “I’ve been asked to go back home (even though I am home).” Now, Ms. Amar said, she and her husband were looking to leave France.

Laurie Abouzeir, 32, said she was considering starting a business caring for children in her home in Toulouse, southern France, because that would allow her to wear a head scarf, frowned upon and even banned in some workplaces.

Many women wrote that anti-Muslim bias had intensified after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, and in Brussels, Paris and Nice more recently. Halima Djalab Bouguerra, a 21-year-old student in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, dated the change further back, to the killings by Mohammed Merah in the southwest of the country in 2012.

“The way people look at us has changed,” Ms. Bouguerra wrote. “Tongues have loosened. No one is afraid of telling a Muslim to ‘go back home’ anymore.”

Here are some excerpts from the comments we received. They have been condensed and edited for clarity, and translated for those who wrote in French.

Continue reading the main story

 

In Response to Duke Rider “Reducing a sexually hostile environment?”

Originally published in The Newport News Times, July 22, 2016 edition, Page A8.  This was a “letter to the editor” written in response to a Letter to the Editor written by Duke Rider and published in the News Times, July 13, 2016, Page A6.  Credit for the “Response” should be given to Gilbert Schramm who authored this with only some minor editing by Nancy Mead

Once again Duke Rider has un-holstered his pen to make unsubstantiated allegations in a dubious cause. Once again we must object.

Rider calls title IX “a good law gone wrong.”

He notes that it is a 1972 federal law that “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.” He adds that it is “intended to avoid the use of Federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs or activities.” So far, so good.

But then Rider goes all wrong.

He claims that “the growing sense is that some females will not feel safe sharing restrooms…causing them to feel sexually vulnerable.” He gives no evidence to support this claim. In fact, there are lengthy articles that show exactly the opposite.

He claims that “now parents are resorting to filing lawsuits.” Who, where, and why? Have any of these supposed lawsuits been judged to have merit? Have any been won?

Then (predictably) he brings in Obama as bogeyman and implies that he is “adding this law.” In fact, Obama neither created title IX nor did he add a law to it. His administration merely issued guidance on how they interpreted existing law. (And clearly, any discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status concerns sex and gender and must be considered in the enforcement of title IX.)

Rider then suggests that the practice of with-holding federal funding is “extortion” or “blackmail.” That’s absurd. In the 1980s, in response to extreme highway death tolls, the Feds passed seatbelt laws, speed limits, and required states to raise their drinking age. States that didn’t lost federal highway funding. This has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

Finally, Rider says Oregon should reject federal education funds over this issue, “control our own destiny,” and “let Oregon run our Department of education.”  Nonsense.

The Oregon Department of Education has raised no objection to Obama’s guidance, federal funding is a benefit to all students, and the President is simply doing the job we elected him to do.

Rider’s whole position reeks of a misinformed, divisive, bigoted politics.

Nancy Campbell Mead,

National Organization for Women (NOW) Board Member, Past President of Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Supreme Court Fair Housing Ruling is a Civil Rights Victory

by FEMINIST NEWSWIRE on Jun 25, 2015 • 3:59 PM

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, just upheld the use of disparate impact claims under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which bans housing discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.
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via Shutterstock
This case ruled that a plaintiff does not need to prove intent to discriminate- a standard that is nearly impossible to meet. Instead, the plaintiff can use the tool of disparate impact to show discrimination based on a policy or policies of the defendant.

“A disparate-impact claim relying on a statistical disparity must fail if the plaintiff cannot point to a defendant’s policy or policies causing that disparity,” the majority of the Supreme Court said. “A robust causality requirement is important in ensuring that defendants do not resort to the use of racial quotas.”

“Our country remains deeply segregated and we need not only provisions of the Fair Housing Act to be intact, but we need aggressive, and affirmative enforcement of the act by the federal government and by state jurisdictions,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“Losing this case would have resulted in a serious blow to the Fair Housing Act,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “It’s troubling that this was only a 5 to 4 decision. Upholding the integrity of the Fair Housing Act is essential if we are ever going to desegregate our neighborhoods.”

“The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is incredibly pleased that the United States Supreme Court today has reaffirmed core principles of fairness and equality,” the organization said in a statement, “by clearly and unambiguously recognizing both the legality and the importance of the ‘disparate impact‘ protections of the Fair Housing Act in addressing housing discrimination.”

Media Resources: Supreme Court Decision King v. Burwell 6/25/15; CNN 6/25/15; NAACP LDF Press Release 6/25/15
http://feminist.org/blog/index.php/2015/06/25/the-supreme-court-fair-housing-ruling-is-a-civil-rights-victory/