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    Ladies First

    Obama Warms Up To Women

    In his State of the Union speech, the president focused on female-friendly issues.

    In a State of the Union speech urging "action," President Obama said 2014 can be a "breakthrough year" for women.

    "This year, let's all come together—Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street—to give every woman the opportunity she deserves," Obama urged. "Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds."

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  • Bill Clark/Getty

    Faux Concern

    Hypocrisy on Privacy and The Pill

    Birth control and data mining used to be things they believed in, now both are Big Government plots to be stopped.

    I’m sure you chuckled at this weekend development as much as I did: At its winter meeting, the Republican National Committee, , passed a resolution condemning the NSA’s data-mining policy. The language about “unwarranted” government surveillance being an “intrusion on basic human rights” passed by voice vote, with only a few dissenters.

    This is being read in the media as evidence for the party’s continuing turn away from war-mongery, Ari Fleischer-style, “watch what you say and do” Big Brotherism and toward a Pauline (as in Rand) libertarianism. And I wouldn’t deny that there’s something to that. The libertarian streak is very in vogue on the right, and neocons can’t seem to get Americans agitated about anything.

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  • Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters

    COLLEGE SEX ASSAULTS

    Breaking Silence Over Campus Rapes

    Obama’s task force on campus rape and sexual assault needs to tackle the issue of under-reporting above all else.

    Rape and sexual assault on college campuses are “an affront to our basic decency and humanity,” President Obama said yesterday. Certainly the best intentions underpin his creation of a special task force that has 90 days to come up with recommendations for tackling the issue in schools and, even more notably, increase federal oversight in the handling of sexual assault on campus.

    The accompanying White House report (PDF) is progressive in its acknowledgement of how different, complex factors-such as race and sexual orientation-impact sexual assault on campuses. It also displays a nuanced shift away from burdening victims with rape prevention by explicitly criticizing “victim-blaming responses from administration officials.”

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  • Mark Wilson/Getty

    Thumbs Up

    Obama Fights Against Sex Assaults

    His new task force hopes to make a cultural change on how rape is viewed, while improving prevention.

    President Obama announced today he approved a new task force devoted to combating sexual assault on college campuses. Obama's green light comes just after the release of a new report titled Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action that states one in five young women have been sexually assaulted while attending college, and only an astonishing 12 percent reported the crime. Obama's task force was given three months to make recommendations on how to respond to these staggering numbers—including forms of prevention and improved response from schools. Additionally, the task force will evaluate how federal agencies should hold schools accountable for not properly prosecuting sexual assault claims.
     
    Most resounding is Obama's clear intent to create, as the President's senior advisor Valerie Jarrett stated, "a cultural shift of men speaking out” against sexual violence. This is a stated departure for previous sexual assault policies—which often places responsibility on victims and focuses preventative energy on educating potential victims, not their rapists— and comes as a relief to advocates who champion better college sexual assault policies. For Obama, his own daughters, Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12, might have elevated the urgency of the matter.
     
    Just this past year, several female college students spoke out on the dismissive responses they received by college administrators after reporting their assault. One female student from Amherst broke national headlines when her testament: “Eventually I reached a dangerously low point, and, in my despondency, began going to the campus’ sexual assault counselor,” she wrote in The Amherst Student. “In short I was told: ‘No you can’t change dorms, there are too many students right now. Pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate, there’s not much we can do. Are you sure it was rape?’” Her accusations were echoed by several schools, including cases at Dartmouth, Duke, and UNC.
     
    Many hope the President's acknowledged desire for updated political stance on educational health and sexual assault will improve their ability to condemn their rapists.

    Read it at ABC
  • Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images

    BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

    Journalist Calls Obama ‘First Female President’

    Says the president is more maternal than manly.

    Mark Judge in The Daily Caller has dubbed Obama “the first female president.” This statement would be bolder if it hadn’t been said before by media outlets—including Newsweek and The Daily Beast way back in 2008, as The Atlantic notes. In Judge’s piece, he says that Obama “seems to be a woman, and a feminist one at that, with a streak of man in him.” Judge says that Obama looks over his country as a mother would protect her young. Judge goes on to say that Obama has “abject terror” of his wife, Michelle, whom Judge argues is “more man” than her husband. Judge says that Obama is “lazy” and that he only defends bills that are “morally repulsive,” like ones on abortion. 

    Read it at The Daily Caller
  • Frederick M. Brown/Getty

    HIGH HONORS

    Obama to Award Gloria Steinem, Oprah Winfrey

    With Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    Sixteen people, including Oprah Winfrey and Gloria Steinem, are set to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian. Steinem, who is still very active with many women’s groups, was a leader in the women’s-liberation movement of the late 1960s and ’70s and cofounded Ms. magazine. The Oprah Winfrey Show was the highest-rated talk show for 25 years, and Winfrey has worked to help advance young women through numerous organizations. Astronaut Sally Ride will also be honored posthumously. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Medal of Freedom 50 years ago, more than 500 people have been honored.

    Read it at ABC News
  • A package of Plan B contraceptive is displayed at Jack's Pharmacy on April 5, 2013 in San Anselmo, California. A federal judge in New York City has ordered the Food and Drug Adminstration to make Plan B contraceptive, also known as the morning after pill, available to younger teens without a perscription within 30 days. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

    Obama Appeal?

    Plan B Hand-Wringing

    Michelle Cottle says public health may still prove victorious over fears about libidinous teens.

    The FDA’s decision this week to lower from 17 to 15 the age at which young women may purchase Plan B emergency contraception without a prescription was not exactly a bold move by the Obama administration.

    It was, at most, the halfhearted removal of the thumb Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had jammed into the FDA’s eyeball in December 2011, when Sebelius overruled Commissioner Margaret Hamburg’s recommendation that all age and point-of-sale restrictions—such as limiting its sale to clinics and pharmacies, keeping it behind the counter, and requiring ID—be removed from the so-called morning-after pill. Hamburg’s recommendation flowed from research indicating that the pills are safe and easy to use. Sebelius’s rejection was widely slammed as based on politics—specifically, the fear that conservatives would accuse President Obama of greasing the path to hot tween orgies.

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  • U.S. Sen Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) (C) takes the stage joined by other U.S. women senators during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

    Bon Appetit

    Dinner Chez Barack

    Obama invites 20 women senators to dine at the White House.

    A meeting with women senators seems to be President Obama's next tactical move on his mission to make nice with Congress. He's already held two dinners for senators—the first with Republicans and the second with Democrats—hoping to fortify talks about federal deficits and immigration reform. And now, The Huffington Post reports, the 20 women elected to the U.S. Senate have been invited to the White House for a dinner of their own this coming Tuesday.  The women of the Senate are known to have monthly bipartisan dinners of their own, hosted by Sen. Barbara Mikulski. The gender division reflects an optimism concerning the potential for across-the-aisle negotiations at Tuesday night's dinner.

    Read it at HuffPost Politics
  • Saratoga (California) High School sophomore Audrie Pott. (Audrie Pott Foundation/Facebook)

    Tragedies

    Dead After Inauguration Day

    The young victim was in President Obama's inaugural parade—and so was another 15-year-old who died tragically as well.

    At 11, Audrie Pott of California was in the color guard of the only middle-school band to march in President Obama’s first inaugural parade.

    “The president’s young daughters waved and cheered loudest for [this] group as all the other performers were so much older,” says a Pott family online posting about the Redwood Middle School’s moment in history.

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  • Susan Rice and Andrea Mitchell talk during day two of the Women in the World Conference 2013. (Marc Bryan-Brown)

    DIPLOMAT

    Susan Rice Keeps Cool

    Amid threats from North Korea, Obama’s U.N. ambassador says the administration is staying calm.

    The Obama administration is keeping its cool in the face of apocalyptic-sounding nuclear threats from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, says United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. “Our interest is in reminding him and those around him of the benefits of a peaceful course,” she told attendees of Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit in New York, “and not getting too jumpy when he wakes up in the morning and issues another provocative statement.”

    Rice, who was interviewed on stage by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, made the point several times that the United States is quite ready, willing, and able to defend itself and its allies in the region.

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  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answers questions from people from around the world during a "Global Townterview" at the Newseum January 29, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

    Plouffe Pick

    Hillary ‘Strongest’ in 2016

    David Plouffe says Clinton is ‘probably the strongest candidate’ if she decides to run. By Lloyd Grove.

    David Plouffe doesn’t sound too worried about the current strength of the Republican Party, which he called “as popular as the Ebola virus” on Sunday night at Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y.

    Plouffe, who as Obama’s campaign manager was an ardent foe of Hillary Clinton’s during the 2008 Democratic primary campaign, also predicted that the former secretary of state will be “the most interesting and probably the strongest candidate” of either party if she decides to run for president in 2016. Especially against the nominee of a dysfunctional, disconnected GOP.

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  • Clockwise from top left: Zainab Salbi, Meryl Streep, Mellody Hobson, Valerie Jarrett and Geeta Rao Gupta. (Jamie McCarthy/WireImage, via Getty; Vera Anderson/WireImage, via Getty; Molly Riley/Reuters, via Landov; Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty; Andrew Burton/Reuters, via Landov)

    Cabinet Picks

    The Next Women’s Ambassador

    As Melanne Verveer departs, who could be Obama’s new champion for women and girls? By Katie Baker.

    While President Obama has taken a certain amount of flak for his new political appointments—which tend, so far, toward the old, the white, and the male—one post will surely introduce some much-needed diversity into his second-term cabinet: the role of ambassador at large for global women’s issues.

    Created in 2009 by former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the office has been occupied for the past four years by Melanne Verveer, Clinton’s former chief of staff as first lady. In between political stints, the two co-founded the Vital Voices Global Partnership to support female leadership worldwide, and have been tireless advocates in support of women’s issues. (Verveer played a crucial role in orchestrating Clinton’s historic 1995 speech in Beijing, when the then-first lady famously declared that “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”)

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  • Clockwise from top left: Zainab Salbi, Meryl Streep, Mellody Hobson, Valerie Jarrett and Geeta Rao Gupta. (Jamie McCarthy/WireImage, via Getty; Vera Anderson/WireImage, via Getty; Molly Riley/Reuters, via Landov; Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty; Andrew Burton/Reuters, via Landov)

    Cabinet Picks

    Who’s the Next Women’s Ambassador?

    Valerie Jarrett, Helene Gayle—or Meryl Streep? Top candidates to succeed Melanne Verveer. By Katie Baker.

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