While the government remains complicit in a massive human rights violation along U.S. borders, at least one person in Hollywood is trying to make life better for immigrants.
Gina Rodriguez, star of Jane the Virgin, convinced The CW to spend the funds for its Emmy campaign on a Latinx teen's college tuition.
The scholarship will pay for all four years of undergraduate education for the recipient (who happens to be undocumented) instead of parties and campaigns to increase Jane the Virgin's chance of winning an Emmy.
Now that's perspective.
"It's taboo to talk about the money being spent, but it's the reality," Rodriguez told The Hollywood Reporter. "I think sharing this might inspire other people to do something similar. You can desire recognition and, at the same time, decide to not play in the confines of the game as it's set up."
Though she was hesitant to make the scholarship announcement public, Rodriguez's actions show Hollywood's power to make real change when many around the country feel powerless to help with current affairs.
"Our show has always jumped at any opportunity to help me do something for the Latinx community," said Rodriguez. "So I asked my showrunner, Jennie [Snyder Urman], if we could do something different with the money this year."
Tiny cars buzz around a classroom in the Stanford Gates Computer Science Building as eight teen girls look on, laptops in hand. These young programmers at SAILORS, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Outreach Summer program, are testing code for their mini self-driving cars.
These girls are part of a group of 32 females, all rising high school sophomores, who come from 10 states and five countries to be a part of the world’s only summer artificial intelligence camp for girls. Similar programs will run next year at the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University.
Developed in 2014 by co-directors Fei Fei Li and Olga Russakovsky, both leaders in artificial intelligence (AI), SAILORS aims to fix the gender disparity in AI by inspiring girls to pursue it. (The story’s author is a participant in this summer’s program.)
AI, the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, is rapidly becoming the most important and disruptive technology in society, according to analysts and industry representatives across the globe. Oxford University research estimates over half of all human work will eventually be taken over by machines. Their future capabilities, to sense, monitor, recognize and respond, depend on the insight of their builders and designers.
“One of the most critical and high-priority challenges for CS [computer science] and AI” is the shortage of women and minorities, states the National Science and Technology Council’s report “Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence.”
Unequal female involvement in AI can lead to conscious and unconscious sexism proliferating and imprinting on society as it becomes more reliant on advanced technology, according to Foreign Policy.
Starting from high school, girls are outnumbered 4-to-1 in Advanced Placement (AP) CS exams, despite the fact that they make up over half of total AP test-takers. Female students’ achievement in mathematics and science is on par with their male peers, but their CS participation is much lower, according to the National Science Foundation’s 2016 report “Science and Engineering Indicators.”
This is a story SAILORS participant Anne Li knows all too well.
“Every single meeting for the robotics team, the other girl and I were assigned to sanding woodblocks instead of actually building the robots,” said Li about her high school club in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Li is not related to the camp’s director.)
With SAILORS, Director Fei Fei Li wants to make sure girls like Anne Li turn into the next generation of female leaders to “become the AI technologists of humanity,” she said during the welcome dinner. She is the director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence and Vision Lab, as well as chief scientist at Google Cloud. The other founder, Russakovsky, is a computer science professor at Princeton University.
“I saw SAILORS as an opportunity to grow as a person and as a contributor to the world,” said Archika Dogra, from Seattle. “Everyone can make a difference if they have the right platform, and SAILORS provides just that.”
Participants vary in their exposure to AI and computer science, but they all express interest in these fields. “AI is the industrial revolution for our age,” said Maheen Mirza, a high school student from Pakistan. “To be able to be part of that is really fascinating.”
The girls credit SAILORS for helping them develop confidence in the field. “Initially I was kind of scared because I didn’t know anything about AI,” said Irene Yang, from San Ramon, California. “But coming here, and meeting all the other girls, I feel comfortable.”
Besides the self-driving car robotics research project, participants also get a taste of AI through hands-on projects, including “Mapping Poverty in Uganda with Computer Vision” and “Assisting Disaster Relief with Natural Language Processing.” Speakers, ranging from Google engineers to science policymakers, explore topics like AI sustainability, being female in STEM and giving back to the community.
“It’s important to realize AI has the potential to help a lot of people,” said camp participant Kathy Xing from San Jose, California. “It’s very broad with a lot of applications.”
Janice Yang, from San Ramon, California, was interested in learning how AI can apply to social issues, including environmental issues.
“AI has the ability to change the future for every component of our life,” said participant Sarah Chun, who came for the two-week program from London, Canada.
In addition to learning more about the field, the camp helped the girls learn more about themselves. “This program inspired me to achieve what others may think is impossible,” said Joanna Liu, from Chandler, Arizona.
It also helped Ariel Bachman find her tribe. “I finally get to talk about STEM things that my friends don’t really care about,” said the San Jose, California, student.
The Trump/Pence regime has announced a new Domestic Gag Rule that will force healthcare providers that rely on Title X government funds into a lethal and immoral choice. Either these healthcare providers must join a theocratic conspiracy to deny women any information about abortion (even where they might find one at an outside provider), or these healthcare providers will be denied crucial federal funding and forced to deny these same women essential healthcare like breast cancer screenings, contraception care, and screenings for sexually transmitted infections. This law is aimed at all healthcare providers that serve women, including Planned Parenthood. For anyone who told themselves that Trump didn’t really mean it when he promised during the campaign to put an end to abortion, this should be a serious wake-up call. While Trump has a history of at least claiming to support abortion rights and Planned Parenthood, he has never truly been motivated by any genuine respect for women’s humanity and reproductive freedom. For this reason, he had no problem forging a strategic alliance during his campaign with a powerful movement of extreme and politically determined Christian fundamentalist fascists who are hellbent on criminalizing all abortion. This alliance is concentrated in Mike Pence and Trump couldn’t have won the presidency without it. It is also true that since day-one of his presidency, Trump (and Pence) have been steadily delivering what they promised to Christian fascists – from placing Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court along with a record number of other federal judges, to stripping away rights recently won by members of the LGBTQ community, to drastically curtailing women’s access to abortion, and even to birth control.
Forced Motherhood is Female Enslavement
Having a child—if a person wants a child and is in a position to care for one—can be a beautiful thing. But being forced to have a child against ones will is a form of female enslavement. It forecloses women’s dreams, drives women into poverty, and traps many into abusive relationships. This all-around subjugation of women is exactly what the Christian fascists who make up a driving force in the Trump/Pence regime want. Already, millions of women—especially Black, immigrant, poor and/or young women—do not have meaningful access to abortion and, increasingly, to birth control. Currently, seven states have only one abortion clinic. Further, anti-abortion fanatics have carried out hundreds of acts of extreme violence—including murder, kidnappings, arson, clinic bombings, and more. This new law will now affect approximately 4,000 clinics, serving about four million women.
Reagan was the first to implement this Gag Order that Trump is now making law. But while every Republican administration has imposed this Gag Order internationally (and every Democratic administration has temporarily lifted it), the Republicans never felt they could fully implement it domestically (in the US), so they never really tried. With Trump/Pence in power, their calculation has changed. Now, they are going in for the kill. This regime is deadly serious about criminalizing all abortions for all women in all circumstances—denying women’s humanity and reducing them to incubators.
The Democratic Party’s Collaborationist “Resistance”
The problem we face is not merely with the fascists of the Trump/Pence regime. The additional problem is that all-too-many who hate what this regime is imposing on women are relying on the Democrats to stop it.
But, what did the Democratic Party—the so-called #Resistance—do in response to this vicious assault on half of humanity? They issued two mealy mouthed letters that accept the misogynist prejudices that underlie these policies. Rather than declaring that women are full human beings who must have the right to decide for themselves when and whether to bear children, the Democrats point out that “every dollar invested in Title X saves more than seven dollars in Medicaid-related costs.”(Title X is a federal program targeted by the Domestic Gag Rule that provides birth control and reproductive care for four million people.) Rather than criticize the outrageous fact that government funds were already being denied for abortion and that this has caused the deaths of poor women, they note that “Title X program has never funded abortion services” to suggest that cutting these funds won’t reduce abortions anyhow.
And who did the Democrats address these collaborationist letters to? They wrote to Alex Azar, Trump’s appointee to head Health and Human Services. Appealing to Azar—who has defended the “right” of insurers to deny birth control coverage and pledged to protect the “unborn”—for redress in this matter is like appealing to the notorious racist and segregationist Bull Connor for help against the Klan!
Only the People Can Stop this Nightmare
This latest escalation of the all-out war on women by Trump/Pence is part of a larger fascist agenda that includes the ethnic cleansing of immigrants from so-called “Shithole” countries (i.e.: those that are overwhelmingly made up of Black and Brown people), the banning of Muslims, the destruction of science, new threats of war, the ripping up of the rule of law, and the acceleration of environmental destruction.
The Democrats won’t stand up against this because they are more wed to maintaining order for their capitalist-imperialist system – even if it is the order of fascism – than risking the monumental upheaval it will take to dislodge this fascist regime and reverse its direction.
But, because of the threat this regime poses to humanity, it must be stopped. It is long past time to cast off the illusion that “fascism couldn’t happen here” and the self-delusion that the Democratic Party or the normal workings of official politics will solve this problem for us. As RefuseFascism.org has repeatedly insisted, it is time for all of us – coming from a great diversity of political perspectives – to get out of our comfort zones and prepare for struggle. The millions whose lives are being destroyed by this regime, the millions more whose futures are being threatened, and the many more millions who refuse to sit by must take it upon ourselves to stop this nightmare.
A husband priority changed to build better career whereas wife continued to support him selflessly. Finally he realized after 12 years. A sweet love story to read.
Life had changed for me. I never realized it. Moonlight walk changed into late night strategy workshops. Candlelight dinner turned into business meetings. Sweet and short phone calls from her transformed into long hour teleconferences. Gifts were no more priority now — there should be some tangible return whatever we invest, after all. Spending even 5 dollars on the bouquet for the Valentine’s Day seemed meaningless — you would lose at least half an hour searching for a parking space in the downtown.
Overall there was no respite from the hectic office and the future planning. Whenever she, in a very mild attempt, tried to express her feelings, I had pre-defined answer, “these all are for us only, darling” and she used to be quiet for another month or so.
Recently I had to go to Holland on a business trip for a week. I was working on an important assignment. I didn’t have even five minutes to talk to my parents who traveled more than fifteen hundred miles just to meet us. I called her to inform that I had to leave that evening. It was not new to her. It happened many times, and every time, in evening, I found her standing at the door, smiling, with my suitcase packed with all the necessary stuffs.
I checked in to Crown Inn in Eindhoven. It was 3 PM. I wanted to rehearse my presentation before I meet the senior management. I was sure that she would have kept the file. In past, she never missed what I needed, never ever. But I could not control my anger. I opened my leather cased Samsonite and file was not there!!! I took out or rather threw cloths one by one on the cozy floor of Crown Inn.
“Here it is” phewwww… what a relief.” I sighed. I knew she never missed even my minute taste and never ending petty demands. And for this important file, I had specifically reminded her.
I opened the file. There was a pink envelop, something similar to what we used to exchange, long time ago, before our marriage. Those days, loves were not made on the Internet. It had been more than twelve years.
I opened the envelope. It had our family photo, with her and our two little ones. We all were smiling. There was a pink greeting card with a red heart printed on it. Inside the card, it read, “Miss you my dear Teddy Bear.”
When I was returning, at the Schiphol airport, after many years I purchased something for her… just for her… a pair of diamond earrings. I was missing her badly, as never before. Continue Reading