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International Women’s Day: Why empowering women leads to prosperity for all

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The single greatest antidote to poverty and social stagnation is the emancipation of women. Wherever this has been tried, wherever women have been empowered to do as they wish, the economy and the culture have been radically improved.

A new book by Augusto Lopez-Claros, a senior fellow at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, an Iranian writer and novelist, is among the first to comprehensively test this proposition by surveying data from 189 countries. Titled Equality for Women = Prosperity for All, the book shows how gender inequalities — in education, income, law, employment, and wages — lead to instability and chaos at almost every level of society.

I called Lopez-Claros to talk about the links between gender inequality and political instability, how discriminatory laws hold women back, and what we can do to push societies toward more gender equality.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

What happens to a society when women are deprived of their rights?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

One useful starting point to answer your question is to look at how discriminations are embedded in countries around the world — in constitutions, civil codes, family law, tax codes, labor codes, and every legal instrument that you can imagine having an impact on how the law treats women compared to men.

The World Bank did this for 189 countries, accounting for 98 percent of the global economic output, and we discovered that, as you might expect, discriminatory laws lead to highly unequal societies, especially in terms of income and employment and property ownership. They also discourage women from joining the labor force and from engaging in civil society, so you get not only unequal societies but also huge gaps in participation rates — in the job market, in politics, in education of women relative to men.

This is terrible for social progress and for the economy, but one of the worst things this does is poison the future, because you get fewer women in school relative to boys and the effects of that spill into the next generation, and so you end up in this spiral of poverty and dysfunction that is hard to escape.

Sean Illing

Can you give me a sense of some of the more common forms of discrimination you found?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

Access to the labor market is huge. Many occupations are simply forbidden to women precisely because they’re women. In many places, you find that women have to obtain authorization from their husbands to obtain a bank account or even to travel. And then there’s the issue of property rights. Often the law treats women and men fundamentally different in terms of what they’re entitled to and on what basis.

Does the tax system provide benefits to men that it doesn’t provide to women? What about access to credit? In some countries, for instance, the law gives control of household assets to the man, and this very much restricts the ability of women to use the property as collateral to access the financial system.

These are the sorts of things we looked at, and we wanted to know how they impacted the societies in which we found them.

Sean Illing

Let’s talk about that. What is the direct link between gender inequality and political instability?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

The biggest impact of gender inequality is on income inequality. We have data that shows that countries that make it more difficult for women to access the labor market have higher levels of income inequality. And if you think about the intuition behind this, it makes sense. If you’re discriminating against half the population, how can that not worsen income inequality?

Political scientists have long understood how corrosive income inequality can be to political stability. There is pretty clear evidence that democracies with large gaps in income have a much higher probability of breakdown than those with a more egalitarian income distribution. So this gender inequality feeds directly into political instability.

Sean Illing

Does the data show that gender disparities disappear as societies become wealthier? Or that societies become wealthier as gender disparities disappear?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

The data suggests overwhelmingly that gender equalities lead to more wealth and less poverty, and of course, equal access to education is a huge component of that. More education leads to lower birthrates because women have more knowledge about family planning and more opportunities to enter the labor force and earn money.

Lower fertility levels help reduce child mortality, and they expand the range of educational opportunities that are available to the next generation. All of these factors combine to boost economic growth and higher income per capita.

On the other hand, to address the other half of your question, we have several examples of high-income countries, especially in the Middle East, that have very high levels of discrimination against women. So it doesn’t automatically follow that as countries become richer, all of a sudden, gender equality improves.


Sean Illing

When you look around the world, is the gender gap shrinking?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

If you look at the whole world, there are something like 30 countries with 10 or more such discriminations embedded in their laws, in their national legislation. And most of these are located in the Middle East and North Africa region and, to a lesser extent, in sub-Saharan Africa.

A couple of years ago, the World Bank did a 50-year comparison of the laws for 100 countries (from 1960 to 2010) to get a sense of the progress made, and they found that there was progress made pretty much everywhere except in the regions I just mentioned above. And in some countries, like Iran, women were actually worse off in 2010 than they had been in 1960.

Sean Illing

And fundamentally this is about a lack of political power, right?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

Absolutely. In each case, you find that women have not been politically empowered. That’s what keeps these restrictions in place. The voices of women simply are not heard in many of these countries. The men in these societies have largely appropriated for themselves the making of the rules and the content of the laws. They are the ones who sit in parliamentary committees, who are finance ministers, who are governors, and so on.

Just consider this incredibly revealing statistic: We have nine female heads of government in the world among 193 members of the United Nations. That’s astonishing, and really puts the problem in perspective.

Sean Illing

Part of the solution to this, as you argue in the book, is to establish quotas for women on corporate boards and in parliaments. What’s the case for this policy?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

First of all, quotas are becoming more and more popular. Something like 40 percent of the countries in the world have introduced some kind of quota for women in terms of participation in national parliaments and local government.

There are also attempts underway to increase the participation of women in corporate boards, largely because a number of studies have found a positive correlation between companies with women on their boards and their financial success.

There was actually a very interesting study in the United Kingdom a couple of years ago looking at the gender composition of company boards that showed that companies with greater female participation on their boards were less likely to be hit by corporate governance scandals involving bribery, fraud, and other factors, which can depress business confidence and therefore hinder economic growth.

Now, having said that, there is a lot of very encouraging evidence when you compare countries that have quotas with countries that don’t. Let me give you two or three examples, which I think illustrate this very nicely.

One of them is that those countries that have introduced quotas for women in parliament show higher levels of participation of women in the labor force. So the presence of women in parliament seems to encourage women to strive and to enter the job market, probably because they feel like the playing field is more leveled.

Quotas also seem to have an effect on government spending priorities. A number of studies have shown that where quotas exist, either at the level of parliament or at a lower government level, there is more spending going to social services and the kinds of infrastructures that are more helpful for women — and you can see this across the world.

So there’s a growing body of evidence showing that having greater participation of women is not just a victory for human rights; it’s actually a big boost to the economy.

Sean Illing

Apart from the policies you just laid out, are there other reliable ways to push societies toward more gender equality?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

One of the problems we face is that we have deeply ingrained prejudices that have led many people in many parts of the world to essentially pass on to succeeding generations beliefs about gender roles that are no longer in keeping with empirical evidence or the kind of 21st-century world we live in.

There was a great, interesting book written a couple hundred years ago called A Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft, which we quote in the book. She made a very clear and simple point: Women are not inferior, and their apparent lack of accomplishment has nothing to do with intrinsic inferior capacities but has everything to do with lack of opportunity and access.

So it seems to me that one of the challenges we face is how do we change deeply ingrained attitudes and create a more open, tolerant, and just world?

Sean Illing

As you know, there are some people who push back against arguments like yours, and say that different cultures have different values and we should not impose our values on them. What’s your response to this?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

Our response to this is simple: Who is speaking for whom in these places where women are being repressed? Is it men or women? Because what you often find is that men have appropriated for themselves the right to speak on behalf of women.

Did anyone in Afghanistan, for example, ask the 11 million Afghan women whether they wanted to be able to work or to send their daughters to school? Or was it the Taliban who imposed this on them?

So basically our argument is about spokesmanship — who speaks on behalf of whom, and what is asserted on the basis of force rather than freely granted popular support. When leaders hold on to power at the cost of the rights and freedoms of others, their legitimacy is most likely to be self-serving and less likely to be freely given. So that’s essentially the argument that we make.

Sean Illing

As you look around the world at this moment, what forces or institutions pose the greatest challenge to the empowerment of women?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

We live in a world in which, at the moment, we have roughly 800 million people who live on less than a $1.90 a day. That’s the poverty line that is used at the World Bank for extreme poverty. We have close to 800 million people who are illiterate, who can’t read and write; in other words, they don’t have access to the most important tool in the 21st century for coming out of poverty. And then we have roughly another 800 million or so children who are malnourished.

Women are overwhelmingly represented in each of these three groups. In most cases, they account for two-thirds of these populations. So there is a huge scope here to allocate scarce resources more efficiently and to improve the quality of governance.

I think there is also a role for international organizations, such as the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank to consider using the great leverage they have, especially in the developing countries where many of these restrictions are located, to press countries to be more proactive in the elimination of these kinds of discriminations, which continually hold women back.

We believe that eliminating these restrictions is actually a win-win for everybody. There is no downside for the international community pressing governments where there are widespread discriminations against women, or ethnic minorities, or religious minorities. This is an unambiguous good for human beings and for the international economy, and we should fight for these changes.

This article was originally published on November 5, 2018.

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20 Awkward Cats Who Fall Asleep in Crazy Ways

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Cats have mastered the art of sleeping, which is not surprising since they spend most of their day asleep. The thing that surprises us is the law of physics-defying positions they fall asleep in. They often leave us amazed or even a little freaked out, but they’re comfortable so we shouldn’t complain. They make for some of the funniest pictures after all!

Bright Side wants to show you 20 pictures of some furry knots that truly amazed us. Also, we have a little puzzle for you in the last picture!

20. When you don’t have a blanket, so you need to cover yourself with your own legs

19. In the newest cat bed, you can roll around while sleeping.

18. Pocket kitten taking a little nap

17. Who needs cat beds anyway?

16. When you’re so tired that you can’t even make it to bed:

15. As if we needed more proof that cats defy the laws of physics…

14. Not sure if the cat is dreaming of sunbathing or flying.

13. This cat read about a sleeping position called “the snail”.

12. Someone had an exhausting day at work.

11. A cat’s mission is to find every spot suitable for sleeping.

10. We can tell that this cat is very comfortable.

9. A fur spiral

8. Another cat that doesn’t need a blanket to cover itself!

7. Enjoying the sunshine

6. When your nap is so good, you start melting:

5. Always be camouflaged, even when you’re sleeping.

4. When you don’t exactly fit, but it doesn’t stop you from taking a nap:

3. We think this cat is dreaming of flying like Superman.

2. Bones are overrated anyway.

1. Here’s your puzzle! How long did it take you to find its head?

Cats are adorable when they sleep and they never fail to amaze us with their quirkiness! Have your cats fallen asleep in strange positions? We need to see them! So please, make our day and everyone else’s by showing us!

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Bernie Sanders’s reparations comments could hurt DSA 2020 endorsement

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Sen. Bernie Sanders’s refusal to give a full-throated endorsement of reparations is throwing a wrench into his long-expected endorsement from the Democratic Socialists of America.

The DSA’s AfroSocialist and Socialists of Color Caucus, a section within the organization focused on race and people of color, is asking the DSA’s national political committee to withhold its endorsement of Sanders’s presidential campaign over his stance on reparations. The independent Vermont senator has declined to back reparations for the descendants of slaves in the United States, arguing that broader anti-poverty programs will help address inequality and that it’s not clear what the term means.

DSA’s members already voted 76 percent to 24 percent to endorse Sanders in a poll conducted by the organization’s leadership earlier this month. The 16-member national political committee is set to vote on the endorsement on Thursday evening. The AfroSocialist and Socialists of Color Caucus is pushing for them to withhold that endorsement.

The caucus laid out its reasoning in an open letter to the political committee and explained that while they believe Sanders has advanced in his stance on race, “there is still a disconnect in his approach to economic issues often failing to comprehend how race and class are intertwined.”

“Should the organization move forward with an endorsement of the Sanders campaign, despite his failure to adopt specific policy stances to address matters of persisting racial injustice and despite his unwillingness to champion reparations to specifically address the experience of the descendants of African slaves, it will risk alienating not just members of color within the organization, but people of color in the communities in which the DSA works,” the letter reads. “We ask that the DSA withholds endorsement of the Bernie Sanders campaign for the presidency until Sanders finally acknowledges the validity of black demands for reparations in America.”

Democratic Socialists of America, which claims to be the largest socialist organization in the US and has gained significantly in prominence in recent years. (Jeff Stein laid out for Vox in 2017 what DSA is all about.) It has more than 50,000 members nationwide.

The letter has caused some internal consternation within DSA, which has been criticized for being a heavily white and male organization.

“There is a lot of really frustrated white comrades right now and comrades of color, to be quite honest, about how this is a stupid strategy, and what’s going on, but I think their hearts are in the right place,” Bianca Cunningham, co-chair of New York City’s DSA chapter, told me. “Sometimes, having these discussions is uncomfortable, and it means you even have to challenge comrades who you see as allies.”

What Sanders has said about reparations

Reparations has become a topic of conversation in the 2020 Democratic primary, and multiple candidates — including Sanders — have been asked to weigh in.

It’s worth noting that reparations polls poorly among the general public, but is more popular with younger voters and voters of color — prime parts of the Democratic base. It has thus gained credence among those on the left as the Democratic Party becomes more aware of and responsive to issues like the racial wealth gap. Black voters make up about 25 percent of Democratic primary voters, a constituency Sanders struggled with somewhat in 2016 but one with which he has been gaining support more recently.

At a CNN town hall event with journalist Wolf Blitzer in February, Sanders was asked about reparations. He said that there are “massive disparities that must be addressed” but did not come out in favor of reparations. Sanders pointed to legislation he likes, including Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D-SC) 10/20/30 anti-poverty program, which he has endorsed. It calls for more federal resources to be sent to communities with high, sustained levels of poverty.

Sanders said we have to do “everything that we can do end institutional racism in this country” and “put resources into distressed communities and improve lives for those people who have been hurt from the legacy of slavery.” But he wouldn’t come out in favor of reparations, and he said it’s not clear what the term even means.

“But what does they mean? What do they mean?” he said. “I’m not sure that anyone’s very clear. What I’ve just said is that I think we must do everything that we can to address the massive level of disparity that exists in this country.”

The DSA caucus calling for the organization to withhold its endorsement cited Sanders’s comments at the CNN town hall. They said he appeared “defensive” and “the dismissive nature of the response effectively shut down the opportunity for meaningful conversation on this issue.”

Sanders was also asked about reparations in a subsequent appearance on the talk show The View and again declined to back them. “I think that right now, our job is to address the crises facing the American people and our communities, and I think there are better ways to do that than just writing out a check,” he said.

That Sanders is not supportive of reparations is not a surprise — he did not support them in 2016 either, claiming they were “divisive” and nearly impossible to get through Congress. (President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did not support reparations, either.) More broadly, Sanders has struggled with his messaging on race. In 2015, Black Lives Matter activists disrupted one of his speeches.

A Sanders spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the DSA’s reparations debate.

Reparations have become an important issue in the 2020 primary

The issue of reparations has become a notable topic of conversation among 2020 Democrats.

Vox’s P.R. Lockhart recently delved into the debate and what candidates have said about it. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), for example, have expressed some level of support for reparations, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is running on a proposed “baby bonds” program that would help close the racial wealth gap.

But as Lockhart notes, the issue — and the discussion around it — isn’t clear-cut:

Some candidates have also noted that reparations — the process of apologizing and providing restitution to those harmed by slavery and its legacy — would serve as payment for a debt America has yet to truly acknowledge 150 years after emancipation.

But they’ve stopped short of actually calling for reparations programs. Instead, experts say that some candidates have muddied the waters by framing universal programs that would help black communities as a form of reparations — which they aren’t.

The discussion has touched on a longstanding debate about what the United States owes to the descendants of enslaved men and women — a population that has been systematically denied wealth and opportunity in a country built with the stolen labor of their ancestors.

Sanders’s approach to racial issues has historically been centered on economic inequality and the idea that communities of color would benefit most from his proposals such as Medicare-for-all and free education. Nelini Stamp, who heads strategy and partnerships for the Working Families Party and supports reparations, in a recent interview told me that’s not enough.

“Similar to having capitalism be a bad word, we need reparations to be a good word,” she said.

Stamp added that people who back Sanders should pressure him on the issue as well. “There should be actual outrage from Bernie’s strongest supporters about his reparations comments,” she said.

Sanders will probably still get the DSA’s endorsement

It’s not clear what, if any, effect the DSA AfroSocialist and Socialists of Color Caucus’s letter will have on the organization’s decision on backing Sanders. Its membership appears to overwhelmingly support the move, though there has been some debate about whether it’s the right move.

The national political committee is set to debate and vote on the endorsement on Thursday at 9 pm.

Beyond this vote, the discussion about reparations and, more broadly, race, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, in the context of the Sanders campaign or among democratic socialists more broadly.

“I don’t think the problem is that they’re pushing for this, I think the problem is the way that people receive it,” Cunningham, from New York’s DSA, said of the AfroSocialist and Socialists of Color Caucus’s letter. “And so, we hear some people saying, ‘This is going to tear apart the organization.’ Well, it doesn’t have to. You can receive this in good faith and really engage in this in a good faith way.”


The news moves fast. Catch up at the end of the day: Subscribe to Today, Explained, Vox’s daily news podcast, or sign up for our evening email newsletter, Vox Sentences.

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#MBCTrending – بمناسبة افتتاح الاولمبياد في أبو ظبي.. نجوم العرب والعالم بأوبريت غنائي

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بمناسبة افتتاح الاولمبياد في أبو ظبي.. نجوم العرب والعالم بأوبريت غنائي
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؟ لأن الازدحام ليس فقط في الشوارع، إنما في كل ما تتلقاه في “السوشيال ميديا” عبر هاتفك الذي لا يفارق يدك . زحام في المعلومات، الصور، الفيديوهات، الملابس، المطاعم، الأفكار، السيارات والمشاهير الذين لا تنتهي يومياتهم بكل ما هو مثير.
نحن نختصر كل ذلك في برنامج واحد يقوم بتلخيص كل ما هو جديد، وإيصاله إليك بدون ازدحام . ابق أمام شاشة MBC4 وانتظر الساخن في تمام الساعة 8 مساء بتوقيت السعودية .

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