News for 23 June 2012 has been taken from BBC News.
Cherie Blair has marked International Widows’ Day by driving a herd of goats across London Bridge.
The lawyer and wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair said goats could bring an income to widows in the developing world.
The stunt was the brainchild of Lord Loomba who, as a Freeman of the City of London, exercised his ancient right to herd livestock over the bridge.
The UN says half of the world’s 245 million widows face poverty.
Mrs Blair said: “I am the president of the the Loomba Foundation and for the last 15 years we have been campaigning for better rights for widows.
“Two years ago the UN recognised this day as International Widows’ Day and this is the second time we’ve celebrated it, and this year we wanted to highlight the fact that a goat can bring an income to a widow.
“Various people have kindly sponsored the goats, so that widows will be able to earn an income from them – not these particular goats obviously – but goats across the world,” she added.
After crossing the bridge with the goats, Mrs Blair and others involved in the event went to Downing Street where Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, hosted a reception.
Mrs Blair, who was joined by former singer and TV presenter Cilla Black, outlined what could happen to women in many parts of the developing world when their husbands died: “Widows across the world suffer stigma, they suffer poverty, they’re often driven into prostitution, they’re shunned by their families, and they’re dispossessed of their property at a time when they are at their most vulnerable because they’ve lost their husbands.”
Leana Hosea, a BBC World Service reporter, asked her: “The war on Iraq, which was co-led by your husband Tony Blair, created thousands upon thousands of widows. What would you say to Iraqi widows?”
She replied: “Widows have come from three things. Disease – HIV, Aids causes a lot of widows. Poverty, because there are a lot of men who are killed because they do dangerous jobs and of course the wars that sadly we have across the world.”
News for 17 June 2012 has been taken from BBC News.
(Original headline: Women of Watergate)
In 1972, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein began to investigate and expose all the president’s men involved in the Watergate scandal. But as their book by the same name shows, the reporters were helped by several women who played crucial roles in revealing the White House’s dirty tricks campaign.
Image: The Guardian
Debbie Sloan – The wife
Hugh Sloan, the treasurer for the CRP resigned from his post soon after the Watergate burglary. His wife, Debbie, was hailed as her husband’s moral backbone and a driving force behind his decision – a depiction she has routinely played down. She invited Woodward and Bernstein into her home, and her husband became a valuable source. Now a grandmother living in Michigan, she recalled the year her life changed completely.
Image: The Guardian
Judy Hoback – The bookkeeper
Watergate watchers know about Deep Throat, the anonymous source made famous in All the President’s Men. But another unnamed informant, “the Bookkeeper” was an even more important source for the reporters. An employee at the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP), Judy Hoback was a young widow when Woodward and Bernstein came knocking on her door. Now known as Judy Miller, she is close to finishing her last bookkeeping job and retiring in Florida.
Image: The Guardian
Marilyn Berger – The reporter
Veteran diplomatic reporter Marilyn Berger didn’t set out to become part of the Watergate story. But the information she discovered – gained after a former Post employee turned White House insider tried to impress her over drinks – helped prove a connection between political “dirty tricks” and the Nixon administration. When she shared what she learned with the Post reporters, she became part of the story. Now in her 70s, Berger is a mother for the first time, raising a young boy from Ethiopia.
Image: The Guardian
Martha Mitchell – The campaign worker
The wife of attorney general John Mitchell and an early member of CRP, Mitchell sounded a frequent warning about the committee’s misdeeds. But her outsized personality and rumoured drinking problem led many to disregard her. Later, psychologists coined the phrase “Martha Mitchell effect”, used when people are diagnosed as mentally ill because they’re telling a truth that seems too outrageous to believe. In 1974, she sat down with veteran broadcaster David Frost to tell her story. She died two years later.
For most of us, getting dressed is a straightforward part of our morning routine. However, for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility it can be a real challenge.
Doing up zips and buttons can be a frustrating struggle – and how do you find trousers that slip on easily when you find it difficult to stand?
“It’s something that you wouldn’t think about until you’re in that situation,” says Ann Oliver.
Mrs Oliver was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1990, the year her sister died of the same disease.
Her condition has progressed to the extent that she now uses a wheelchair to get around.
Over the years she has noticed that it is very difficult to find stylish clothes that are easy for her to put on by herself. She says: “I still want to be looking good in an unconventional but fashionable way sitting in my wheelchair.”
Mrs Oliver enrolled on a course at Central St Martins College in London, with the aim of creating a clothing line for disabled and ‘unconventional’ women.
Her first collection, Xeni, was launched online earlier this year. She has designed coats and jackets that use magnets as self-propelled fastenings.
The coats are also cut out at the back, meaning the wearer can sit down without the collar pulling uncomfortably at the neck.
There are trousers which provide extra length at the back of the waist to make sure they are the correct length for women who are sitting in wheelchairs.
She has also designed evening dresses which accentuate the shoulders, and draw attention away from the lap.
Mrs Oliver set up the business using money she had saved with her husband.
She says the economic climate did not put her off starting up the business “for one second”.
It may not have fazed her, but it may well prevent some of her potential customers from buying the clothes.
They are manufactured on a small scale in north London rather than the Far East, meaning the clothes are expensive.
Furthermore, half a million people are expected to lose their Disability Living Allowance over the next four years, meaning many will struggle to afford to pay the £130 she charges for a pair of trousers.
But Mrs Oliver says she has had a lot of interest from potential customers already and with 10 million disabled people in the UK, hers is a niche but sizeable market.
And while high street stores like Debenhams have had well-publicised advertising campaigns using disabled models, there are very few shops that provide clothes suitable for disabled men and women.
‘Can’t look in the mirror’
A quick Google search for clothes for disabled people brings up practical but, in the main, unstylish clothes.
Of course, there is a wide range of disabilities and different needs. But for some people, the lack of choice can have a huge impact on their self-esteem.
Nicola Carrig is an occupational therapist at Stoke Mandeville Hospital’s Spinal Injuries Unit. Many of her patients are young adults coming to terms with life-changing injuries.
“A lot of patients struggle psychologically and can’t even look at themselves in the mirror,” she says.
“They need to feel better about themselves as they move into the next stage of rehabilitation – and clothing can help with that.”
In the 1980s there were eight charities in the UK that made or altered clothes for people with disabilities. There is roughly half that number now.
One of them is Clothing Solutions, a small charity that has been running in Bradford for the last 30 years.
There, anyone can bring in a garment from a high street store, and the tailors will adapt it to suit the wearer. For many young adults, it is a way they can wear their favourite brands – but with a bit of extra help in the form of Velcro or loops.
Sandra Hunt is the manager of Clothing Solutions and she says there is nothing they cannot do:
“For example, schoolchildren with muscular dystrophy may struggle to wear blazers, because of the chairs. So we cut their blazers in half and join them with a strap at the back.”
However, Clothing Solutions relies on fundraising and is struggling to survive.
“It costs £65,000 a year to run, and we keep dipping in and out of the red.”
This is partly because they charge their customers so little. A pair of specially-adapted trousers will cost the client about £50, but cost a lot more to make.
Ms Hunt is calling for more government funding, so they can mass-produce some clothes and keep their prices down. “It would be ideal if everyone had access to this service,” she says.
Not on the high street
This call for inclusion is echoed by Christine Shaw, chief executive of the charity Disability Living.
She says there are not enough fashionable clothes for people with restricted movement, or who use wheelchairs:
“Designers, manufacturers and retailers have gone some way to respond to this customer need and demand. It’s time they did so in an area that could potentially make a difference, potentially, to millions of men and women in the UK.”
So why don’t high street shops stock clothes that would suit people whose mobility is restricted?
Retail analysts say it is mainly because the high street deals in volume, and manufacturing specialist clothes simply wouldn’t be worth their time.
Luckily for Ann Oliver and her new collection, this space in the market is something she may be able to capitalise on.
A genetic test could help predict breast cancer many years before the disease is diagnosed, experts hope. Ultimately the findings, by doctors at Imperial College London, could lead to a simple blood test to screen women. The test looks for how genes are altered by environmental factors like alcohol and hormones – a process known as epigenetics. Dr James Flanagan, who led the research, explains what it might mean for women at risk of breast cancer.
Full story: Way to spot breast cancer years in advance
A genetic test could help predict breast cancer many years before the disease is diagnosed, experts hope. Ultimately the findings, in the journal Cancer Research, could lead to a simple blood test to screen women, they say.
The test looks for how genes are altered by environmental factors like alcohol and hormones – a process known as epigenetics. One in five women is thought to have such a genetic “switch” that doubles breast cancer risk.
The scientists from Imperial College London analysed blood samples from 1,380 women of various ages, 640 of whom went on to develop breast cancer.
And they found a strong link between breast cancer risk and molecular modification of a single gene called ATM, which is found on white blood cells.
They then looked for evidence of what was causing this change. Specifically, they looked for a chemical effect called methylation, which is known to act as a “gene switch”.
Women showing the highest methylation levels affecting the ATM gene were twice as likely to develop breast cancer compared with those with the lowest levels. In some cases the changes were evident up to 11 years before a breast tumour was diagnosed.
Dr James Flanagan, of Imperial College London, who led the new research, said: “We know that genetic variation contributes to a person’s risk of disease. With this new study we can now also say that epigenetic variation, or differences in how genes are modified, also has a role.
“We hope that this research is just the beginning of our understanding about the epigenetic component of breast cancer risk and in the coming years we hope to find many more examples of genes that contribute to a person’s risk. The challenge will be how to incorporate all of this new information into the computer models that are currently used for individual risk prediction.”
It is not yet clear why breast cancer risk might be linked to changes in a white blood cell gene. But the team envisage that a blood test could be used in combination with other information about breast cancer risk, such as family history and the presence of other known breast cancer genes, to help identify those women at greatest risk of developing the disease in the future.
These women could then be closely monitored and offered pre-emptive treatment, such as surgery.
Baroness Delyth Morgan of the Breast Cancer Campaign, which funded the work, said: “By piecing together how this happens, we can look at ways of preventing the disease and detecting it earlier to give people the best possible chance of survival.”
Laura Bell of Cancer Research UK said: “This study gives us a fascinating glimpse of the future and the promise that the emerging field of epigenetics holds. But it’s too early to say exactly how these particular changes might affect our ability to detect who is likely to develop certain types of cancer.
“With further studies, scientists will increase our knowledge of how genetic switches like this interplay together to affect breast cancer risk, with the hope that one day this could lead to a blood test that could help predict a woman’s chance of getting the disease.”
News for 25 April 2012 has been taken from BBC News.
Leaders within minority groups in Northamptonshire are to trained to assist in a crackdown on so-called honour-based violence. Police hope the influence of such individuals will help make the crime unacceptable within its communities.
“Honour” violence is defined as any attack on a person perceived to have brought shame on a family.
Women’s Aid said that it had helped dozens of women affected by the crime in the county this year alone.
‘Very very scared’
Chris Starmer, from the charity, said: “We had a young girl of 19 referred to us through her GP. Her father was trying to send her back to her country of origin to a forced marriage to a man that was old enough to be her father. Before that marriage took place she was to undergo female genital mutilation. She was very very scared.”
Mrs Starmer said that while the charity could support many of those who asked for help, there were many more who suffered in silence.
She added: “Raising awareness of honour violence is important so that victims of the crime know that support is available and so that professionals within the community know how they can help.”
Detective Inspector Andy Glenn, of Northamptonshire Police, said that while he wanted to raise awareness generally he believed the appointments within minority groups would be particularly effective.
He said: “We recognise that sometimes it’s difficult for the police to get those messages across so one of the things we are doing is working with community members. We have started to train key members of certain communities to get them to understand the impact of honour-based violence – how it can affect victims, how it can affect communities.”
These people will then be tasked with educating their communities about the crime.
Det Insp Glenn added: “What we really want to do is work closely with community to make honour-based violence unacceptable.”
(Original headline: ‘Revenge p*rn’ website IsAnyoneUp.com closed by owner)
The owner of a notorious “revenge p*rn” blog has closed the website, selling its domain to an anti-bullying group. IsAnyoneUp.com had been encouraging people to send in intimate pictures of ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends for more than a year. The site’s owner Hunter Moore said the decision to close was made to “to stand up for under-age bullying”.
New owner Bullyville.com said: “IsAnyoneUp.com served no public good. That is why it is offline.”
In an interview with ABC’s Nightline, Bullyville’s founder James McGibney added: “No doubt, [Moore] was the No.1 internet bully out there and we took him down… not a hostile takeover but in a politically correct way.”
It is unclear how much, if anything, the domain changed hands for.
The site, which featured pictures of men and women in many countries across the world, including the UK, would publish the unwilling subject’s full name and link to social networking profiles.
During its time online, Mr Moore’s site attracted more than 300,000 hits a day – earning him up to $20,000 every month from advertising revenues. Subjects, whose pictures were published without their permission, were often ridiculed, with many forced to shut down their various social networking profiles.
Mr Moore, who is 26 and lives in Los Angeles, used the IsAnyoneUp brand to sell merchandise and promote club nights. Prior to the site’s closure, he had planned to launch a mobile app and accompanying social network.
Mr Moore, who employed four people to help him administer the site, would refuse to remove the pictures, even if threatened with legal action.
In September 2011, the site was served a cease and desist letter by Facebook, threatening Mr Moore with legal action over featuring screenshots from the networking site. Mr Moore published the letter on his blog, apparently ignoring the request. Mr Moore has claimed he sent Facebook’s lawyers a picture of his genitals in reply.
Facebook would not comment on the issue. However, users are prevented from sharing links to the website, in line, Facebook said, with its policy on p*rnography.
The IsAnyoneUp.com domain now redirects to a page on Bullyville.com featuring Mr Moore’s announcement and a statement from Bullyville’s Mr McGibney.
“There are millions of women and men who are thankful that Isanyoneup.com is no longer online,” Mr McGibney wrote. “Lawyers and massive companies have tried unsuccessfully to remove it from the internet. Bullyville was able to work with Hunter to get this done.”
Mr Moore blamed the “drama” of receiving submitted content involving under-age subjects as one of the key reasons for wanting to close down the site.
He said: “The site was a blessing for me and still is, but I am burned out and I honestly can’t take another under-age kid getting submitted and having to go through the process of reporting it and dealing with all the legal drama of that situation.”
A tiny proportion of streets in Rome are named after women, while nearly half are named after men – and it is a similar story in other major cities around the world. Outrageous sexism, a simple fact of history, or both?
Place your finger on a street map and it’s far more likely to land on a road named after a man than one named after a woman. You may not have given it much thought, but Maria Pia Ercolini has. The geography teacher in Rome says her city’s landscape is dominated by men and wants that to change.
It all began when she wrote a cultural guide to Rome, celebrating the role of women in the city’s history.
“During the research I realised that you never see traces of women. History just cancelled the women – they’re not here,” she says.
Ercolini and a team of 26 women painstakingly went through every one of Rome’s 16,550 streets to determine the gender balance.
They found that 7,575 (45.7%) of the city’s streets were named after men and just 580 (3.5%) were named after women.
“That’s proof of the discrimination,” she says.
“Men made the history – the known history. In Italy it is very strong because we have so many [male] saints and religious people like the Pope. Religion is so full of men.”
Of Rome’s eight main streets, two are named after men – the Via Cavour, referring to Camillo Cavour, a leader of Italy’s 19th Century unification struggle, and Via Giulia, named after “Fearsome” Pope Julius II.
The other six are named after inanimate things, from the Via del Corso, which alludes to a medieval horse race, to the Via Sacra, so-called because it passes key religious sites in the ancient Roman Forum.
Local authorities, which have the final say over street names, are now being urged to redress the balance.
Ercolini has set up the Toponomastica femminile Facebook group, as a rallying point for her campaign, and 2,600 people have signed up as members.
“We don’t want to re-name streets. That would be very unpopular,” she explains.
“We want new streets in Rome to be named after women. There are lots of new developments around the city.”
Ercolini and her team have studied other Italian cities, from Florence to Milan, and found a similar pattern.
Inspired by the Italian project, a group of women in Spain surveyed Madrid’s streets. It fared a bit better than Rome, with nearly 7% of streets named after women, and 27% after men.
Work has begun on Paris, and while the data has not been fully analysed, Ercolini estimates that a street there is around five times more likely to be named after a man than a woman.
To the best of her knowledge no country has a gender-based street naming policy. But some regional authorities are beginning to address the issue – including Afghanistan’s only province with a female governor, Bamiyan, where a whole new town is being built.
London taxi driver Tina Kiddell estimates that something like twice as many streets in London are named after men than women.
She describes herself as “a woman in a man’s world” and has an in-depth knowledge of the city, after driving people around it for 24 years.
When not behind the wheel, she spends much of her spare time poring over a copy of The London Encyclopaedia, a comprehensive reference book of more than 1,000 pages.
“Every single road has got a story. For example, Gower Street was named in 1790 after a lady called Lady Gertrude Leveson-Gower, who married the fourth Duke of Bedford,” she says.
“And you have Bedford Square at the end of Gower Street – so there’s your little story about a family marrying together and having the two names in one area where they had houses and owned land.”
Kiddell is proud of her city’s history and the stories behind it and is not bothered by London’s somewhat male-dominated street map.
“When the streets were named, women were subservient to men. Whether that was right or wrong at that time, it was the way it was,” she says.
“Women have only been recognised as something worth noting in the latter years. You can’t change history.”
But Julia Long from the London Feminist Network says the women in Rome are absolutely right to question the status quo.
“I would love to see a similar project taken up in London. It would play a big part in ensuring that women feel recognised and valued in our city,” she says.
Long is concerned about the impact this has on the self-esteem of women and girls. She also thinks it gives men an inflated sense of entitlement and self-worth.
Street names are a very important form of recognition. They are a way of immortalising a person, and of holding in high esteem their achievements.
“The message conveyed by the naming of such a disproportionate number of streets after men is that men are of more value and importance than women,” she argues.
Ercolini’s project is starting to gain political backing. The wife of the Mayor of Rome, Isabella Rauti, has said the shortage of streets named after women reflects “centuries of discrimination”.
On International Women’s Day last month, Toponomastica femminile launched a campaign to get three pedestrian walkways in public parks named after women.
The president of Rome’s 15th district has agreed to dedicate two parks to Elena Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman to earn a doctorate, and Laura Bassi, the first woman to officially teach at a European university.
Ercolini says the president of the second district is also interested.
“It’s having a big effect,” she says.
“I’ve fought all my life to get recognition for women so this is a big symbol for us. I’m happy, it’s satisfying.”
It is 50 years since the first breast enlargement using silicone implants. Today it rates as the second-most popular form of cosmetic surgery worldwide, undergone by 1.5 million women in 2010.
It was spring 1962 when Timmie Jean Lindsey, a mother-of-six lay down on the operating table at Jefferson Davis hospital in Houston, Texas.
Over the next two hours, she went from a B to a C cup, in an operation that made history.
“I thought they came out just perfect… They felt soft and just like real breasts,” says Lindsey now aged 80.
“I don’t think I got the full results of them until I went out in public and men on the street would whistle at me.”
Though the operation boosted her self-confidence – and she enjoyed the extra attention – she had never planned to have a breast augmentation.
Lindsey had been to hospital to get a tattoo removed from her breasts, and it was then that doctors asked if she would consider volunteering for this first-of-its-kind operation.
“I was more concerned about getting my ears pinned back… My ears stood out like Dumbo! And they said ‘Oh we’ll do that too.’” So a deal was struck.
The surgeons were two ambitious pioneers, Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin.
It was Gerow who had first come up with the plan for a new kind of breast implant.
“Frank Gerow squeezed a plastic blood bag and remarked how much it felt like a woman’s breast,” says Teresa Riordan, author of Inventing Beauty: A History of the Innovations that have Made Us Beautiful.
“And he had this ‘Aha!’ moment, where he first conceived of the silicone breast implant.”
The first guinea pig for the silicone implant was a dog named Esmeralda. The basic principle behind the prototype was simple.
“A rocket achieves lift off with lift and thrust – same thing in breast augmentation,” says Thomas Biggs, who was working with Gerow and Cronin in 1962 as a junior resident in plastic surgery.
“I was in charge of the dog. The implant was inserted under the skin and left for a couple of weeks, until she chewed at her stitches and it had to be removed.”
The operation was deemed a success and Gerow declared that the implants were “as harmless as water”. Soon after, the medical team began looking for women to try out the implants.
Timmie Jean Lindsey has only a hazy recollection of her operation day.
“As I came back from surgery there was just a lot of weight on my chest – like something heavy had been sitting there.”
“That was about it – after maybe three or four days the pain part of it had let up.”
The doctors were pleased with their work. But, at the time, Biggs had no idea quite what they had on their hands.
“Sure it was a little bit exciting, but if I’d had a mirror to the future I’d have been dumbstruck,” he says.
“I was not wise enough to realise the magnitude of it.”
The significance began to hit home when Cronin presented the work at the International Society of Plastic Surgeons in Washington DC in 1963. “The plastic surgery world was absolutely set on fire with enthusiasm,” says Biggs.
The time seemed right. 1950s America had seen a whole swathe of cultural influences come together around the ideal of a larger breast.
It was the decade in which Playboy magazine and Barbie launched, and film stars played a big role too.
“The busty look of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell and also Dior’s New Look of 1957, really emphasised this curvy silhouette, and got women thinking about augmenting their breasts,” says Teresa Riordan.
“Falsies” – basically stuffed bras – were popular, but increasingly women wanted something more.
Through the years, all manner of approaches had been tried to increase breast size. In the 1950s, doctors started inserting sponge implants into women’s breasts. Some allege that Marilyn Monroe had this operation, though this is hotly contested.
Monroe biographer Anthony Summers says people he interviewed for his book, who knew her well – including Billy Travilla, who was both her dressmaker and one of her lovers – said she had no reason at all to have any breast enhancement.
“The filmmaker Billy Wilder described Monroe’s bosom as, ‘a miracle of shape, density and an apparent lack of gravity,’” he says.
The sponge technique worked well at first, but did not last – the sponges soon shrank, and became “hard as baseballs” says Biggs.
Silicone was also a material of the moment. “There was a post-war American fascination with all things plastic and artificial,” says Riordan.
It is not in the US, though, that the silicone was first used for breast enlargement, but in Japan, where it was tried out by prostitutes.
Eager to do better trade with the occupying US forces, who they presumed preferred a larger chest, they experimented by injecting silicone – stolen from the docks of Yokohama – direct into the breast.
These injections turned out to have a nasty side-effect known as “silicone rot”, in which gangrene set in around the injection site.
The early silicone breast implants pioneered in the US fortunately avoided this hitch, but were not entirely problem-free.
Hematoma, where blood collects in a swelling, was one early difficulty. There were cases of infections too, and also “fibrous capsular contractions” where a scar would form, making the implant hard.
“We are not worshipping what we had 50 years ago, because that’s history,” says Biggs.
There have been many advances over the decades, like 3D-imaging, and implants that are increasingly rupture-proof – and the range has widened.
“In the early days, we only had four choices or sizes – large, medium, small and petite. Now we have over 450 choices,” says Biggs.
Around the world, breast enlargement is now the second-most popular cosmetic surgery operation, after liposuction (the removal of fat). In many countries – including the UK – it is the most popular operation.
It’s not only used by women who want to perfect their body shape but also by patients who have undergone mastectomy as a result of breast cancer. This was something Gerow and Cronin envisaged from the start, and one of their motives for developing the operation.
For many years, Timmie Jean Lindsey kept fairly quiet about her breast enlargement – one boyfriend never knew for example, and it was only decades later that she told many of her friends and family about it.
Fifty years on she remains delighted with the results, though there is no stopping the passing of time, she says.
“You would think they would stay real perky, but no – they are just like a regular breasts, they begin to sag over the years. That surprised me. I figured they’d just stay where they were.”
But she still very happy with the little piece of history she carries inside her body.
“It’s kind of awesome to know that I was first,” she says.
Blog extra: Podcast (below) of Witness interview with Timmie Jean Lindsey (part of BBC World Service).