Why the Women in the World Summit Matters
Where else can you eat lunch with Pussy Riot, sit next to Senator Gillibrand as she discusses her upcoming book with her publisher as Huma Abedin rushes by to grab more coffee? Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit is an annual event bringing together exceptional women from around the world to honor the countless women battling oppression every day.
Every hyped-up celebrity formed from the marble of a crisis represents innocent people whose voices have been silenced. Take summit speakers Pussy Riot, for instance. We in the West seem to worship them. They’re considered punk rock starlets who represent all the glory, all the guts of rebellion. They’re almost too good to be true, a Hollywood concoction. Given that they’ve dined with Madonna, were honored at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center with their own concert (to raise money for Amnesty International), and have made Stephen Colbert blush as witty guests on his show, one could even say they won the protest jackpot by getting arrested.
Behind all the glamour, all the media appearances of Pussy Riot, there are regular Russians whose names the world will never know who are rotting in prisons for practicing democracy. Why doesn’t Madonna dine with them?
In Russia, just this year alone, nine journalists have been killed and 163 arrested, according to Reporters Without Borders. The Memorial Human Rights Center has identified 43 individuals in Russia as political prisoners. As I recently wrote for Forbes, the Kremlin just did a massive crackdown on the media and put Chinese-styled restrictions on the Internet. After speaking on stage in Lincoln Center, Pussy Riot will be going home to wannabe-1984.
One star-attraction at this year’s summit who benefited from being relatively unknown was Ruslana. Just months ago, the Ukrainian pop star was obscure in the West. Last month, she was honored at the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama for bravely remaining on stage in Maidan, Kyiv’s Independence Square, despite the snipers, despite repeated threats on her life. In the arctic cold, for over 100 nights, she sang the national anthem to keep protesters’ spirits up in the face of death and riot police violence. As a longtime fan of Ruslana’s, I’ve seen her in concert before. Her earthy version of pop music can best be described as pre-US crossover Shakira, when the now watered-down bleach blond was a soulful beloved rocker in her native Columbia. Ruslana, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament, easily stole the show at this year’s summit. Given my work in democratic advocacy for Ukraine, I was honored to be a guest of her delegation this year.
“Welcome to Ukraine!” she told the audience after having them shine their cell phone lights in the dark like the sea of protesters in Kyiv, during the relative peace of December. In an interview with Tina Brown, Ruslana explained how to understand Putin: “In the Soviet Union, a human life means nothing, the empire means everything.”
While it’s easy to get caught up in the famous names gracing the halls of the Women in the World Summit, the main attraction is how the event gives a voice to the voiceless. For a few days, brave women like Ruslana, like Pussy Riot share their stories of survival, of hope, and determination on a global stage. They are speaking for millions of people who need us to listen.
Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.
- Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
- Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
- "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Scientists make an important discovery for the future of computing.
- Researchers find a new state of matter called "topological superconductivity".
- The state can lead to important advancements in quantum computing.
- Utilizing special particles that emerge during this state can lead to error-free data storage and blazing calculation speed.
Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.
- The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
- The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
- While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
As tempting as it may be to run away from emotionally-difficult situations, it's important we confront them head-on.
- Impossible-sounding things are possible in hospitals — however, there are times when we hit dead ends. In these moments, it's important to not run away, but to confront what's happening head-on.
- For a lot of us, one of the ways to give meaning to terrible moments is to see what you can learn from them.
- Sometimes certain information can "flood" us in ways that aren't helpful, and it's important to figure out what types of data you are able to take in — process — at certain times.