We’re less than a week away from the official start of spring, which means it’s almost time for chirping birds, budding trees and American Idol eliminations. Before all that rebirth is afoot, though, the news has assumed a decidedly “same old, same old” mentality. The shiny exception, this week, is the promotion of a stellar lady and litigator from New York City to the position of top Wall Street watchdog-ess.
1. White Smoke, New Pope. On Wednesday, former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires ascended to the papacy. Commentators rejoiced that Pope Francis, as he will be known, is “breaking barriers” in the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. He is from South America! He is a Jesuit! No one has ever picked “Francis” before! These facts are perhaps interesting in the same way footnotes are interesting, but they don’t seem to justify the jaw-dropping and back-patting. I’m no expert, but I watched a streaming video on CNN, and Pope Francis looked male, white, and pretty old to me. Also, he is a vocal opponent of abortion, but saves his real ire for same-sex marriage, which he claims exists only to “seriously injure the family.” He has been dubbed a relic of “medieval times and the Inquisition” by the President of Argentina. Who happens to be a woman. Which Pope Francis must think is just awful.
2. Afghan Women Better Off Under Communist Rule Than Decades-Long U.S. Occupation. Ann Jones is a journalist and author who, since 2002, has either volunteered at two NGOs in Kabul or has been embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan. She recently published a piece reflecting on her work, her Afghan colleagues, and her prediction for how women – and women’s rights – will survive once the American forces have fully withdrawn in 2014. The situation appears grim, unless you’re a fan of sharia law and abysmal maternal and infant death rates. Indeed, Jones’ article cites Kabulis estimating that the U.S. will leave behind “nothing durable” for ordinary Afghans. More specifically, Jones shares a remark from one of the NGO’s lawyers, who summarized that women “do so much work,” but are “not in charge of anything.” It’s an eye-opening read, mostly in the sense that it makes you want to cry your eyes out and then jab at them with sharp objects.
3. Smoke and Mirrors: Gun Protections Added to Finance Bill. Congress needs to pass a financing bill that would keep the government running through the end of the year. The Senate Appropriations Committee gets to write that legislation. Some G.O.P. members of the committee have tacked on provisions that would permanently protect some gun rights favored by Republicans. For example, the provisions would curb the ATF’s authority over gun dealers, and would broaden the definition of “antique” guns that can be imported into the United States outside of normal regulations. Many of the measures have existed before, but they’re being made permanent with Democrats’ blessing to fend off an even further-reaching alternative circulating in the House. For those keeping score at home, yes: gun rights are being cemented in laws about money to avoid gun rights being expanded in laws about money.
4. Trial Begins in Steubenville Rape Case. Trial began Wednesday in the closely-watched case against two teenaged boys, each accused of raping a 16-year-old girl. The defendants have both pleaded not guilty, admitting they each had sex with her but insisting it was consensual. Consensual, despite the evidence that the victim was so drunk that she could neither move nor speak, and awoke the next morning with no recollection of the previous night. The horrors visited upon her were revealed through further horrors: seeing pictures, videos, text messages, and tweets documenting her abuse as it occurred. An electronic diary of degradation. Kids say, and type, and perpetrate the darnedest things.
5. Smoking Out A Hollywood Hacker. What do Michelle Obama, Jay-Z, and Kim Kardashian have in common? All right, stop. It’s that they’ve all been hacked and had their personal and financial data published online. The site’s homepage has a scary picture of a scary girl-zombie, with links to celebrities’ or politicians’ names. Click, and you see their addresses, Social Security numbers, mortgage and bank accounts, and credit card numbers. In unrelated news, you should know I’m writing this from Britney Spears’ guest house wearing a frock from Chanel’s elastic waist-banded line that Donald Trump, um, bought me.
6. Path Cleared for Mary Jo White to Take Over at S.E.C. As a litigator who practiced for some years in New York City, Mary Jo White has long been something of a hero of mine. She was the first female United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York – Manhattan – where she made a name for herself prosecuting the Mafia, terrorists, and rogue traders. She went on to become the head of the litigation department of a venerated law firm in the city. Now she is poised to become chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the agency charged with making sure Wall Street isn’t breaking federal securities laws. It’s also an agency that has come under fire recently, accused by some for “missing” the warning signs of the financial crisis we’ve all been so enjoying. If what’s needed is a principled but proactive leader, M.J.’s a slam dunk.
This week’s “6 Things” post was written by Abby Diaz, a mother, wife and lawyer who shares her opinions and her sarcasm while blogging about current events at What’s Left Over. Hailed by readers as “hilarious,” “insightful” and “related to me,” she is sure to cover a subject that resonates with you. Assuming you care about things like life, entertainment, and/or family. If reading full paragraphs is too much for you, enjoy Abby over at Facebook or Twitter.