On Tuesday morning, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, published a full front-page editorial calling on Gov. Mike Pence to repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the new bill that has incited national furor because it allows businesses to refuse service to gay people, citing their religious beliefs.
Tuesday's Indianapolis Star. @markalesia/Twitter
By the end of the day, the paper received a heartbreaking letter from Nick Crews of Plainfield. Crews writes about walking his dogs to the local market that morning to pick up two copies of the day's Star, something he never does. He continues:
With the papers under my arm, I walked to Plainfield's Maple Hill Cemetery, and found my brother's grave. My brother, who had been a troubled Vietnam War vet, was gay at a time when being gay was a very difficult thing to be. When he died of AIDS in 1985 in a far-off city, his refuge from his closed-minded native state, some in our family were sufficiently ashamed that his cause of death was not discussed.
At the grave I opened the Star. I said, "Well, Charlie, times have changed, thank God. It turns out you were on the right side of history after all." Then I read aloud as much of the paper's editorial as tears would let me get through.
And today I'm doing what I never thought I'd do. I'm renewing my subscription to the Star. I'm doing this because, if for no other reason, I believe we must all support those who stand against discrimination and for inclusiveness. I do it too as thanks to the Star whose courage and right-mindedness on this issue made this moment of personal closure possible for me.
Ellen Pao near the courthouse where her lawsuit has been on trial since February.
This is a breaking news story. We'll be updating this post regularly.
Ellen Pao's $16 million lawsuit against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, has captivated Silicon Valley for the past month. Pao, now the interim CEO of Reddit, sued her former employer on charges of gender discrimination and retaliation. Manyhave called the trial Silicon Valley's version of the Anita Hill hearings, in part because it offers a rare glimpse into the challenges faced by women at the Valley's elite companies, where cases of this rank usually settle rather than go public. At 2 PM pacific today, the jury returned a verdict, voting no on all four counts of alleged gender discrimination and retaliation by Kleiner Perkins.
But the official verdict barely lasted a half hour, thanks to an error in basic math: The judge asked each juror to list their individual verdict for the court. This revealed that on the fourth count—which alleges that Pao's termination was retaliation for raising concerns about gender discrimination and filing her lawsuit—4 of the 12 jurors, two men and two women, voted yes. The judge ruled that 8-4 was an insufficient majority—a consensus among nine jurors is needed—and asked the jurors to return to the deliberation room for further discussion. That means that there hasn't yet been an official verdict. We'll keep updating this post as news unfolds.
Update, Friday, 7:45 p.m. EDT: After the first jury miscount, an official verdict is in and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins has prevailed on all counts. The jury returned to the courtroom after several hours of additional deliberations to deliver the verdict. Juror 3, one of the four original "yes" votes on the retaliation count, flipped his vote. With a consensus of nine jurors or more on all counts, the case is over. Ellen Pao gave a brief statement to the press, thanking her family and friends for their support throughout the trial. "I have told my story and thousands of people have heard me," she said. "If I've helped level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it."
On Monday, President Obama made his annual rounds at the White House Science Fair. The event is a breeding ground for adorable interactions with kid-nerds (See 2012's marshmallow-shooting air cannon), but his chat yesterday with five cape-wearing Girl Scouts from Oklahoma was especially magical.
The 6-year-olds from Tulsa's Girl Scout Troup 411 were the youngest inventors selected to present at this year's fair. Inspired by conversations with a librarian and one of the girls' grandmas, they built a mechanical Lego contraption that can turn pages, to help patients with mobility issues read books.
The group of first graders and kindergartners explain to Obama that the device is a "prototype" that they came up with in a "brainstorming session." One of the girls asks Obama if he's ever had his own brainstorming session.
"I have had a couple brainstorming sessions," replies an amused Obama. "But I didn't come up with anything this good!"
Another girls asks what he came up with:
"I mean, I came up with things like, you know, health care. It turned out ok, but it started off with some prototypes," the president says.
And then they all go in for a group hug. GOLD.
Suzanne Dodson, the coach of the Lego team and the mom of one of the scouts, told Tulsa World that she's glad the girls are getting such positive attention for their project: "It really is a problem with girls, when they get to middle school, they lose confidence in their own ability to succeed in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)" she said. "Having this experience at young age really gives them a confidence boost."
Four years ago, vaccine-skeptical German biologist Stefan Lanka posed a challenge on his website: Prove to him that measles is, in fact, a virus. To the first person who could do that, he promised a whopping 100 thousand Euros (about $106,000).
Despite loads of long-standing medical evidence proving the existence of the measles virus, Lanka believes that measles is a psychosomatic disease that results from trauma. "People become ill after traumatic separations," he told a German newspaper.
German doctor David Barden took him up on the challenge. Barden gathered six separate studies showing that measles is indeed a virus. Lanka dismissed his findings.
But today, a district court in southern Germany found that Barden's evidence provides sufficient proof to have satisfied Lanka's challenge. Which means Lanka now has to cough up the promised cash.
This issue has taken on new urgency due to a measles epidemic in Berlin that began in October. Health officials announced last Friday that 111 new cases had been reported in the previous week, bringing the total number to 724. The majority of those affected are unvaccinated; last month an 18-month-old died of the disease.
In Silicon Valley, a group of mostly white, mostly male twentysomethings have built a multibillion-dollar empire of sharing apps: shared housing (AirBnB), shared cars (Uber), shared dog-sitting (DogVacay)…you get the idea. But the so-called "sharing economy" doesn'tactuallyshare equally with everyone. One fake app wants to change that.
WellDeserved is an app that helps you "monetize" your privilege—be it racial, gender-based, or socioeconomic—by sharing it (temporarily, of course) with other people. The fictional app was the winning entry at last month's Comedy Hack Day in San Francisco, where creative agency Cultivated Wit challenged contestants to come up with a comedic app idea and pitch it to judges, all in 48 hours.
The app's promo video will make you laugh and cry: A Google employee sells his free Google lunch to a guest for $10, a dude charges a black man $5 to hail a cab on his behalf, and another guy walks a woman home so she won't get catcalled, asking himself, "Why don't I walk with them, spare them the harassment, and charge 'em like five bucks?"
The creators' (fake) plan for making the (fake) app work is summed up perfectly: "Our business plan is that VCs will just give us money. Because this is San Francisco, and we have an idea."