Google promises to shut down two of its seven messaging apps

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Katherine Johnson’s Enduring Legacy
In 1958, not long after the pivotal launch of Sputnik, American engineers were preoccupied with spaceflight. Every day, engineers at the Langley laboratory at Virginia contemplated orbital mechanics, rocket propulsion, and the complicated art of leaving Earth—they needed to catch up with the Soviet Union. Katherine Johnson’s job was to prepare the equations and charts for this work. But she wasn’t allowed inside the room where any of it was discussed.“Why can’t I go to the editorial meetings?” Johnson asked the engineers, as Margot Lee Shetterly wrote in the book Hidden Figures.“Girls don’t go to the meetings,” her male colleagues told her.“Is there a law against it?” she replied. There had been, in other cases; one prohibited black people from using the same bathroom as white people.But Johnson already ignored those laws at the office, and she kept asking about the meetings. Eventually the engineers relented, tired of saying no over and over again. She made it into the room, and well beyond that.Johnson, who died this morning at the age of 101, spent more than 30 years at NASA, where she provided the complex calculations for the country’s most important missions, from the first journey to the edge of space to the triumphant landing on the moon.Johnson’s talent and contributions are well-documented now, but for most of her life, her efforts went unrecognized—until, in 2016, Shetterly published her book and the film it inspired became a blockbuster. For the first time, a wider swathe of the world learned about Johnson and how she made a place for herself in American spaceflight. The book chronicled the lives of Johnson and the other black female mathematicians who worked as “computers” at the Langley Research Center in Virginia, using pencils and slide rules to calculate equations for the agency that would become NASA.[Read: Hidden Figures and the appeal of math in an age of inequality]The sciences are well-known for their infuriating tendency to overlook important figures who aren’t white and male. But the stories of these women in particular had been buried so deep in the archives of history, that when Shetterly brought them to light, it felt like a revelation. In her late nineties, Johnson was finally celebrated—widely and loudly—for her contributions to one of the most iconic accomplishments of the 20th century.She was inundated with press coverage, had buildings renamed in her honor, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The burst of overdue recognition didn’t seem to faze her. “There’s nothing to it—I was just doing my job,” she said in a Washington Post interview in 2017. “They needed information and I had it, and it didn’t matter that I found it. At the time, it was just a question and an answer.”Johnson was born on August 26, 1918 in West Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, to a schoolteacher and farmer. She had a sharp mathematical mind as a child, and by the time she was 13 years old, she was taking classes at West Virginia State College, where she later earned her degree. She briefly attended West Virginia University to study for a master’s degree in math, becoming one of the first black students in the program, before leaving to start a family. She was teaching at a black public school in Virginia when a relative told her about job openings with Langley’s cadre of human computers, led by another black mathematician, Dorothy Vaughan.Johnson arrived at Langley in 1953. At a place like Langley, any woman would have faced sexism in that era; Johnson and her colleagues had to confront the racism of the time, too. A cardboard sign on a cafeteria table, delineating where “colored computers” could sit, had been done away with by the time she got there, but the signage over bathrooms remained. Johnson focused on her work. “She didn’t close her eyes to the racism that existed,” Shetterly wrote. “But she didn’t feel it in the same way. She wished it away, willed it out of existence inasmuch as her daily life was concerned.”[Read: The women who contributed to science but were buried in the footnotes]By 1958, the year NASA was formally established, Johnson was known for her keen eye and precision. As engineers considered what it would take to send the first American beyond the edge of space, she volunteered for work behind the scenes. “Tell me where you want the man to land, and I’ll tell you where to send him up,” Johnson told her boss. She ended up calculating the trajectory of Alan Shepard’s capsule from the time it lifted off the ground to the moment it splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean in 1961.Johnson was called on to do the same for John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, the following year. This time, the equations that would control the journey had been programmed into actual computers, and the astronaut was a little nervous about entrusting his life to this newfangled technology. Glenn asked the engineers to tell Johnson to crunch the same numbers by hand and check them before the flight. They were correct. “If she says they’re good, then I’m ready to go,” he said.As the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union escalated, Johnson contributed calculations that synchronized the Apollo 11 mission’s lander, which touched down on the lunar surface, and the command module, which remained in orbit around the moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored. Without these efforts, the first men on the moon wouldn’t have been able to find their way home.Shetterly heard these and other stories of the black mathematicians from her father, who worked as a scientist at Langley. During her early research for the book, the author shared some information about the women with experts on NASA history. “They encouraged what they viewed as a valuable addition to the body of knowledge, though some question the magnitude of the story. ‘How many women are we talking about? Five or six?’” Shetterly remembers them saying. By the time she finished her book, she had uncovered nearly 50 black women who worked as computers, mathematicians, engineers, or scientists at the Langley facility between 1943 and 1980, and believed that “20 more names can be shaken loose from the archives with more research.”While Johnson and her cohort of “computers” didn’t get the recognition they deserved at the height of the space race, their work has now become part of the mythos of American spaceflight. But their story is also an object lesson in how history is written—who is included and who is not. The legacy that Johnson leaves behind is not just the equations she worked to help send astronauts safely up into space, all the way to the moon, and back again. Her story also reveals who gets left out of the stories America tells about its accomplishments. If Johnson and her colleagues are remembered, but the next group of “hidden figures” remains hidden, then we have not remembered her well enough.
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Harvey Weinstein enters court as a jury deliberated in his trial on February 24, 2020, in New York City. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images He was convicted of rape in the third degree and a criminal sexual act in the first degree. Here’s what that means. At his trial in New York, producer Harvey Weinstein faced five charges in connection with allegations that he raped or sexually assaulted women. On Monday, he was convicted of two of those charges: rape in the third degree and a criminal sexual act. Because laws around sex crimes vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, charges like these can be confusing. To understand them, it’s helpful to look at all the charges filed against Weinstein in the case, and the testimony behind each of them. Weinstein was charged on these five counts in his New York trial Rape in the first degree: Under New York law, this is the most serious rape charge. According to the state’s penal code, a person is guilty of rape in the first degree if they engage “in sexual intercourse with another person” by “forcible compulsion” or if the victim is “incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless” (a person may also be guilty of this crime if they sexually assault a child, which was not alleged in the Weinstein trial). Under New York law, forcible compulsion means compelling someone “by the use of physical force” or “by a threat, express or implied, which places a person in fear of immediate death or physical injury to himself or herself [or another person] or in fear that he or she [or another person] will immediately be kidnapped.” Weinstein was charged with rape in the first degree in connection with Jessica Mann’s testimony that he raped her in 2013. Mann said that Weinstein trapped her in a hotel room, holding the door shut, then ordered her to undress and raped her. “I gave up at that point,” she said, according to the New York Times. Weinstein was acquitted of this charge. Rape in the third degree: In New York, a person is guilty of this crime if they engage “in sexual intercourse with another person without such person’s consent.” This charge does not require prosecutors to prove “forcible compulsion” on the part of the defendant or that the victim was “physically helpless” at the time. In addition to the first-degree rape charge, Weinstein was charged with third-degree rape in connection with testimony by Jessica Mann. He was convicted of this charge. That means that according to the jury, the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mann had not consented to what happened in 2013, but not that there was “forcible compulsion” involved. Criminal sexual act in the first degree: In New York, the crime of a “criminal sexual act” refers to nonconsensual oral or anal sex. A person is guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree if they engage “in oral sexual conduct or anal sexual conduct” by “forcible compulsion.” Weinstein was charged with this count in connection with testimony by Miriam Haley. Haley testified that on a visit to his apartment in 2006, Weinstein pushed her with his body into a bedroom until she fell on the bed. “I tried to get up, and he pushed me down repeatedly, by that time I started realizing what was happening … that this was rape,” she testified, according to BuzzFeed. Haley said that Weinstein ultimately performed oral sex on her without her consent. The producer was convicted on this count, meaning the jury felt that the prosecution had proved forcible compulsion in his assault on Haley. Predatory sexual assault: In New York, a person is guilty of this crime if they commit first-degree rape or criminal sexual act, and have engaged in other conduct that would constitute such crimes in the past, even if they were not charged or convicted. Essentially, to prove this charge, prosecutors have to show that the defendant had a history of committing a sex crime against at least one other person, in addition to the primary victim. (There are also other reasons someone can be charged with predatory sexual assault, such as if they seriously injured a victim physically, but these were not at issue in Weinstein’s trial.) To prove this in Weinstein’s case, prosecutors called to the stand Annabella Sciorra, who said that Weinstein raped her in the 1990s. According to the Times, she testified that Weinstein showed up at her apartment and pushed his way inside. Then he unbuttoned his shirt, pushed her onto her bed, pinned her arms above her head, and raped her. “My body shut down,” she said, and she lost consciousness. But jurors apparently did not feel that prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Weinstein raped Sciorra. They voted to acquit Weinstein on two predatory sexual assault charges (one in connection with Sciorra and Haley’s allegations, and one in connection with Sciorra and Mann’s). The language of the law around sex crimes can be confusing, and as law professor Cheryl Bader told Vox last week, terms like “consent” and “forcible compulsion” aren’t necessarily clearly defined. Moreover, Americans’ understanding of consent is still evolving, especially with the rise of the Me Too movement — a movement itself propelled to prominence in part by the allegations against Weinstein. Still, what we can glean from the verdict against Weinstein is that the jury was convinced that the producer was guilty of nonconsensual conduct with Mann, but not necessarily that he used force as part of that conduct. Now that he has been convicted, Weinstein faces a minimum of five years in prison on the criminal sexual assault charge and a minimum of probation in the third-degree rape charge. He will be sentenced on March 11.
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