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This week:

Powerful words from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the latest advancement in breast cancer research, and an editorial cartoon about the college-admissions scandal.

A group of designers is creating a genderless digital voice

Many people are familiar with Siri and Alexa — the female voices used for Apple and Amazon’s artificial intelligence technologies, respectively — but a group of technologists, linguists and sound designers are working to create a completely gender-neutral voice. They believe that AI voices can end up reinforcing traditional stereotypes, including that women are helpful and caring. So the group, led by Copenhagen Pride and Vice Media’s creative agency, Virtue, is creating a new, genderless digital voice called Q, made from the real voices of two dozen people who identify as male, female, transgender or nonbinary. After creating four variants, researchers asked a group of 4,500 people in Europe which sounded the most gender-neutral to them; that voice then became the basis for Q.

Anna Jorgensen, a linguist who worked on what became known as Project Q, told Wired magazine: “One thing we can do is push what the norm is. And we should do that.”

The effects of teenage motherhood are long-lasting, study finds

(iStock/Lily illustration)
(iStock/Lily illustration)

The effects of teen pregnancies can impact children for generations, new research suggests. According to a recent study, a child whose grandmother gave birth as a teenager, but whose own mother gave birth after age 20, is 39 percent more likely to place in the bottom 10th percentile of scores measuring whether kindergartners are ready for school than a classmate whose grandmother and mother became parents as adults.

“What this research really demonstrates is the value of supporting young mothers when they have children in adolescence,” study co-writer Elizabeth Wall-Wieler told the Atlantic. The support “doesn’t just improve their own lives — it also improves the lives of their children and the lives of their grandchildren.”

Saudi women’s rights activists appear in court

Loujain al-Hathlou. (AP/iStock/Lily illustration)
Loujain al-Hathlou. (AP/iStock/Lily illustration)

Several Saudi women’s rights activists appeared in a closed-door court in Riyadh on Wednesday, nearly a year after they were arrested on charges of undermining national security. They went to court despite complaints they had not been given access to lawyers, according to human rights groups and relatives. Some of the women have also said they were tortured while in custody, including with beatings and electric shocks.

Among others, the activists included Loujain al-Hathloul, a leader in the campaign to lift the country’s female driving ban; Eman al-Nafjan, the author of a popular feminist blog; and Nouf Abdulaziz, a TV producer and advocate for prisoners. On Thursday, these three women won the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, an honor given to writers imprisoned for their work.

New research finds that molecular data can predict breast cancer recurrence

(iStock/Lily illustration)
(iStock/Lily illustration)

A new joint study from the Stanford University School of Medicine and several other institutions has found that molecular data obtained from breast cancer cells can help predict which patients are at high risk for recurrence. For the first time, researchers are able to identify which women are at a persistent risk of relapse over time, where and when in the body certain breast cancers are likely to metastasize, and which women are unlikely to see a relapse after five years. The findings provide researchers and doctors “with a powerful new tool” to help predict a patient’s prognosis and potentially direct decision-making in treatment, according to a news release.

Brazil remembers slain politician and human rights activist Marielle Franco

Brazilians honor Marielle Franco. (Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)
Brazilians honor Marielle Franco. (Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)

On March 14, 2018, human rights activist and Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco was killed in a drive-by shooting, which Brazilian authorities have said was politically motivated. On Tuesday, police arrested two former police officers allegedly involved in Franco’s assassination. Two days later, on the anniversary of her death, thousands in Brazil gathered to celebrate her legacy and demand justice.

Franco — who dedicated her life to advocating for the rights of women, black people and the LGBTQ community — was an outspoken critic of police brutality. She was 38 when she died. In Brazil, she has become “a symbol of resistance,” her wife, Monica Benicio, told Al Jazeera.

—Macy Freeman, Washington Post multiplatform editor


• Variety reported that, in her upcoming memoir, Rosie O’Donnell says she was sexually abused by her father as a child.

• The British government pledged to provide free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges in England starting next year. That followed calls from activists who said some low-income girls skip school during their periods because they can’t afford sanitary protection.

• A New York appellate court allowed former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos’s defamation lawsuit against President Trump to proceed — which means that Zervos’s attorneys may have the opportunity to question Trump under oath in the coming months.

• Last week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) defended how her office handled allegations of sexual harassment against a former aide, whom they investigated last year but did not fire until a media outlet contacted her office last month. On Sunday, Gillibrand officially announced her 2020 presidential campaign in a video called “Brave Wins.”

(Hagen Hopkins/Getty
(Hagen Hopkins/Getty

On Friday, a heavily armed lone gunman clad in military-style gear opened fire during prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 and injuring dozens more. Portions of the attack were live-streamed on social media by the suspect, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who also released a 74-page manifesto ahead of the attack. In the manifesto, Tarrant identified himself as a 28-year-old white man born in Australia. He described his motivation, which he said involved defending “our lands” from “invaders” and ensuring “a future for white children.”

Speaking at a news conference Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern forcefully condemned the attacks, describing the shooter as “having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and, in fact, have no place in the world.” She also said New Zealand would tighten its gun laws, citing the fact that the suspect was able to obtain a gun license and high-powered weapons.

Emily Kumler. (Courtesy of Emily Kumler)
Emily Kumler. (Courtesy of Emily Kumler)

Journalist Emily Kumler is the host of “Empowered Health,” a podcast aimed at demystifying women’s health launching March 25. Every week, she’ll interview doctors, researchers and experts to help women better understand their biology, psychology and experiences. Kumler previously worked as an ABC staff producer on “20/20” and “Primetime.” This week, we asked her to fill in the blank.

Editorial Cartoon

During March, we’re featuring a single-panel editorial cartoon by artist Katie Wheeler in each Monday newsletter. All views expressed are the opinions of the artist.

On Tuesday, the FBI charged 50 people — including actresses Lori Loughlin of “Full House” and Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” — with being part of a long-running scheme to get privileged kids accepted to big-name colleges and universities. The news set off a nationwide conversation about how privilege and money play into higher education.

#31days31firsts is a series honoring Women’s History Month. Check in with us every day on Instagram as we highlight moments in history and women behind them.

This is part Lily Like, part Lily Life Hack. I always love to have art on my walls, but have very little money for, well, actual art. When I moved out of my college dorm, I picked up a beautiful wall calendar that someone was throwing out: It featured various Japanese woodblocks and was made by Cavallini Papers. (The company makes a whole bunch of different calendars: collections of vintage travel scenes, national parks, flowers, and many more.) I trimmed each page, bought a few simple black frames from Ikea, and turned it into art for the bare walls of my new apartment. People consistently compliment my “Japanese prints” … and I tell them that all this, too, can be theirs. They just need to buy a $10 calendar.—Caroline Kitchener, Lily staff writer

*Have an idea for a news-inspired baiku? Send us your creation at lily [at] washpost [dot] com, and you might see it in the next Lily Lines. We follow 5-7-5.

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