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Women rally in support of Elizabeth Warren by sharing their own pregnancy discrimination stories

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WASHINGTON — Women are sharing their stories on social media of pregnancy discrimination in support of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who came under attack from conservative outlets this week over her claim that she had been fired in 1971 for being pregnant.

“[I]f you don’t understand what this furor over the Elizabeth Warren pregnancy firing story is about, ask pretty much any woman in your life over 35,” culture writer Anne Helen Petersen wrote on Twitter, prompting some to respond with their personal experiences.

A flurry of blogs and online outlets also came to Warren’s defense, posting stories such as “Elizabeth Warren’s critics forgot: Pregnancy lasts for nine months,” “If You Think Elizabeth Warren Is Lying, You’ve Never Been a Woman in the Workplace,” and “Elizabeth Warren’s Pregnancy Story Is All Too Common. We Know Because We Live It.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who has not endorsed a candidate in the Democratic primary, shared on Twitter that she was asked just this year if a job offer could be rescinded if a person was pregnant. (It has been illegal to do so for more than 40 years.)

On the presidential campaign trail, Warren frequently tells the story of how she was fired from her job as a special needs teacher in June of 1971 when she was visibly 6 months pregnant with her first child. Warren points to this experience of being a 22-year-old woman with a baby on the way and no job as a turning point in her life that ultimately led her down a path to public service.

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, on Monday published minutes from an April 1971 board of education meeting documenting a unanimous vote to extend Warren’s teaching job for the following school year. Warren, who would have been around 4 months pregnant at the time of the meeting, says her colleagues did not know then that she was pregnant.

“I was pregnant but nobody knew it,” Warren told CBS News in an interview later Monday. “And then a couple of months later, when I was six months pregnant and it was pretty obvious, the principal called me in, wished me luck, and said he was going to hire someone else for the job.”

Warren’s critics seized on the opportunity to claim that the senator was lying about being fired and sought to further discredit her account by pointing to a 2007 interview at the University of California at Berkeley in which she describes leaving her teaching job but does not mention being fired as her reason for doing so.

Warren defended herself, writing on Twitter that “[w]hen I was 22 and finishing my first year of teaching, I had an experience millions of women will recognize. By June I was visibly pregnant—and the principal told me the job I’d already been promised for the next year would go to someone else.”

Warren also posted a video of herself reading a handful of tweets that women sent her sharing their own experiences of pregnancy discrimination.

“Now, this was a long time ago,” Warren says in the video in reference to her job loss, “but we know, this kind of stuff still happens today. Sometimes subtly, and frankly, sometimes not so subtly. So, I get out and on the campaign trail, I tell my story. And I’ve asked other people to tell their stories as well. I think that’s a good way to fight back.”

Many were also quick to defend Warren’s 2007 speech, noting that personal experiences of discrimination are not always easy to discuss publicly. In one of the tweets that Warren read in the video, a woman named Sarah writes that it took her mom more than 30 years to tell her own daughters how she lost her job after she became pregnant, adding that women “don’t share this stuff willy nilly.”

“So true, Sarah,” Warren said in response.

Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, seven years after Warren says she was let go from her job, making it illegal to discriminate against pregnant women. But the problem still persists.

Thousands of women file pregnancy discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission every year and a recent investigative report from The New York Times demonstrates that discrimination remains prevalent across industries for pregnant people today.



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Israeli settlements don’t violate international law, U.S. says in major policy reversal

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The United States on Monday reversed its decadeslong position that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal, in the latest step by the Trump administration to solidify Israeli control over areas claimed by Palestinians for a future independent state.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press conference that declaring the settlements were in violation of international law had not worked in bringing about Israeli-Palestinian peace, calling the shift in position a recognition of “the reality on the ground.” He said from now on, the U.S. would take no position on the legality of any individual Israeli settlement, instead leaving that decision up to Israeli courts.

“After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President [Ronald] Reagan: the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said.

The historic shift is the latest blow to Palestinian aspirations for statehood under the Trump administration, which also shuttered the de facto Palestinian embassy in Washington and moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem for the capital of a future state.

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The reversal comes as the Trump administration maintains that it still intends to release a long-delayed Mideast peace plan drafted by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner along with a few top aides. The Palestinians have rejected any potential proposal and said the Trump administration has disqualified itself as a broker for Mideast peace by granting countless concessions to Israel.

Still, Pompeo said the U.S. was “not addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank,” arguing it was something Israelis and Palestinians must negotiate between themselves.

Hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis live in settlements constructed in the West Bank, which Israel seized along with east Jerusalem in 1967. Israel quickly annexed east Jerusalem, but not the West Bank. All serious peace proposals for decades have assumed that a future Palestinian state would be established in the West Bank, possibly with “land swaps” to allow some major settlements already built in the West Bank to remain under Israeli control.

The United Nations and most of the international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex Jewish settlements as he struggles to salvage his hold on political power in Israel.

Netanyahu’s rival, Benny Gantz, who is currently tasked with trying to form a governing coalition in Israel, praised the decision in a statement saying the fate of West Bank settlements and their residents “should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements and that can promote peace.”

“I applaud the U.S. government for its important statement, once again demonstrating its firm stance with Israel and its commitment to the security and future of the entire Middle East,” Gantz said.

But Martin Indyk, the former U.S. special envoy for Middle East Peace under the Obama administration, on Twitter denounced the decision as “totally gratuitous.”

The decision, first reported by The Associated Press, rejects a 1978 legal opinion by the State Department legal adviser at the time, Herbert J. Hansell. Since 1978 and until the Trump administration, the U.S. has been consistent in maintaining that settlement construction violated international law, although different presidents have been more or less vociferous in pushing back on continued Israeli construction in the West Bank.

U.S. policy under the Trump administration has been tacitly, if not explicitly, supportive of Israel’s expanded civilian settlements into the occupied West Bank, an about-face from the previous administration. In the final days of his administration, then-President Barack Obama infuriated Israel’s government by allowing the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution demanding Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem,” and declaring that Israeli settlements have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

Paul Goldman contributed.



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Trump admin readies rule to send asylum-seekers back to dangerous countries they passed through

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing to publish a rule that would send migrants who pass through Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras before seeking asylum in the United States back to those dangerous Central American countries to claim asylum there instead.

A copy of the rule, which was made visible online for “public inspection” Monday, would give asylum officers the authority to determine if one of the three agreements the U.S. has recently signed with those countries applies to the immigrants they vet.

If so, the asylum-seekers could be fast-tracked for deportation back to Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras to claim asylum there. Previously, it was unclear how the agreements would be implemented.

Immigration advocates have sharply criticized the agreements with the three countries, claiming that they do not have the capabilities to process asylum-seekers and should not be deemed “safe third countries.”

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“The administration has bullied the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras into signing agreements that will be deadly for people seeking asylum and is now carrying out their fatal application,” said Charanya Krishnaswami, advocacy director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA.

The new rule comes on the heels of two other tough asylum policies implemented over the past six months. One, known as “Remain in Mexico” or MPP, sends asylum-seekers back into Mexico until they are allowed to return for their court date before a U.S. immigration judge. The other makes immigrants ineligible for asylum— and on the fast track for deportation — if they failed to claim asylum in any of the countries they passed through on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border.

An official from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the part of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for providing benefits to those seeking asylum, said many inside the agency are quietly incredulous that the U.S. will be removing asylum-seekers to countries like Guatemala.

“Just as with MPP, there will be people who will die as a result of these policies,” the official said, due to the conditions vulnerable asylum-seekers will face in these countries. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the opinion contradicted the administration’s message.

The DHS and the Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.

In the rule, the administration says processing asylum claims from Central America “consumes a tremendous amount of resources with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.” The DHS must detain many asylum-seekers until their cases are adjudicated and, for the Justice Department, more than 476,000 asylum cases remain pending in immigration court.

The agreements between the U.S. and Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras were negotiated this summer by the former acting Homeland Security secretary, Kevin McAleenan. In return, the countries received assistance to increase law enforcement and regional security, according to DHS statements following McAleenan’s trips to the countries.

McAleenan also met with representatives in the region from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which would play a critical part in helping asylum-seekers who have been deported to a country that is not their own and most likely does not have the infrastructure to review large numbers of asylum claims.

The new rule, which is expected to be officially published in the federal register Tuesday, can be found here. It is not clear when the rule will go into effect after publication.

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Senior Trump admin official Mina Chang resigns after embellishing resumé

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WASHINGTON — Senior Trump administration official Mina Chang resigned from her job at the State Department two and a half hours after NBC News went to her spokesperson to ask about newly discovered false claims she had made about her charity work.

NBC News had previously reported that Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, had embellished her resume with misleading claims about her educational achievements and the scope of her nonprofit’s work — even posting a fake cover of Time magazine with her face on it.

“It is essential that my resignation be seen as a protest and not as surrender because I will not surrender my commitment to serve, my fidelity to the truth, or my love of country,” Chang wrote in her resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Indeed, I intend to fight for those things as a citizen in the days and years to come.”

Chang said she had been “unfairly maligned, unprotected by my superiors, and exposed to a media with an insatiable desire for gossip and scandal, genuine or otherwise.”

Chang’s resignation was first reported by Politico.

NBC News had reported that Chang, who assumed her post in April, invented a role on a United Nations panel, claimed she had addressed both the Democratic and the Republican national conventions, and implied she had testified before Congress.

She was being considered for an even bigger government job, one with a budget of more than $1 billion, until Congress started asking questions about her resume.

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The newly discovered false claims include misrepresenting a trip to Afghanistan as a humanitarian mission, listing an academic who says he never worked for her nonprofit as an employee, claiming a nonexistent degree from the University of Hawaii, inflating an award and claiming to be an “ambassador” for the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO.

Chang had portrayed the 2015 trip to Afghanistan as a humanitarian mission for her nonprofit, but a defense contractor footed the bill and no aid was delivered, according to documents from the company and a former employee.

Mina Chang and unnamed others in Afghanistan in a photo from the Facebook page of Automotive Management Services (AMS), a defense contractor operating in Afghanistan.via Facebook

After the Afghanistan trip, Chang posted photos of herself meeting a group of Afghan women in a room. In a video posted on her charity’s website, she refers to the photo and says the Afghan women are “in hiding” at a secret location.

“This is in Afghanistan, I am sitting with women in our program, they are living in hiding. I can only say they are right outside of the Kabul area,” Chang said in an interview posted on her nonprofit’s website.

But the women were not part of any program run by her charity, Linking the World. They were wives of local employees of the defense contractor that paid for her trip, Automotive Management Services, and they were not in hiding, a former employee said.

“They were photo-ops,” the former employee said of Chang’s trip to Afghanistan and another to Iraq.

Company documents obtained by NBC News show Chang was asked to help the firm manage an association of Afghan wives, whose spouses worked for the company. The plan would free up AMS to “focus on our commercial prospects,” according to a document outlining the project. AMS, which helped Afghan security forces maintain a fleet of armored vehicles, paid for Chang’s airfare and accommodation, according to documents and the former employees.

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On her charity’s website, Chang posted photos from the Afghanistan trip, without indicating that the defense contractor bankrolled the visit and that her NGO conducted no aid work during the trip.

In an email to NBC News, Chang said her organization was helping the defense contractor “create shared value” in Afghanistan. “Our work was not ‘humanitarian aid,’ it was to help a company with critical presence on the ground incorporate [creating shared value] into their business model.”

Chang also continued to claim the women were “in hiding,” saying “it’s irresponsible for anyone to share someone’s identity who says they’re hiding from the Taliban.” However, the pictures of the women Chang shared with an interviewer show the women’s faces.

Ian Dailey, Linking the World’s chief of staff, did not respond to a request for comment about the AMS sponsorship of Chang’s trip to Afghanistan.

The data scientist

In promotional material for Linking the World, under the heading “Who We Are,” the group lists a “chief data scientist,” Michel Leonard, an adjunct professor at New York University and Columbia University.

But Leonard told NBC News that “I was never an employee of this organization.” He said he had never seen the document touting his expertise, didn’t initially recognize the name of the charity and performed no work for it.

Dailey of Linking the World told NBC News in an email, “Linking the World is a volunteer-based organization, so no persons addressed on our site were employees. At the time, Mr. Leonard was employed by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and I was personally working with him on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two organizations, to share data, skills and analyzes (sic). However, Mr. Leonard left USIP before that MOU was completed.”

In her email to NBC News, Chang also said that Leonard was a volunteer like other advisers.

Michel Leonard from the “Linking the World” website, archived on Oct. 7, 2016.Linking the World

In numerous bios, including one when she was a fellow at the New America think tank in Washington, Chang said she had served as a “cross cultural ambassador” for UNESCO.

But Chang does not appear on a list of ambassadors for UNESCO. Spokesman Roni Amelan said the organization does not have a “cross-cultural ambassador” category.

Chang told NBC she was named cross-cultural ambassador at a club promoting UNESCO’s work at Sorbonne University in France in 2015. Her bios did not mention the title was conferred by a university club rather than UNESCO itself.

Chang has cited winning a “CBS Humanitarian of the Year Women That Soar” award in 2012. In fact, it was a local award in Dallas and the event was broadcast by a local CBS affiliate.

“It’s not a CBS award. It aired on a CBS station,” said Lori Conrad, market communications director for the CBS Corporation.

A spokesperson for the Women That Soar event did not respond to a request for comment but Chang’s bio has been removed from the organization’s website.

Facebook banner picture for defense contractor Automotive Management Services(AMS) featuring Mina Chang.via Facebook

In a profile published in 2012 with DFWChild, a Dallas publication, Chang is described as having earned a degree in international development from the University of Hawaii.

A transcript of DFWChild’s interview with Chang, provided to NBC News by the magazine, shows the reporter asking, “So where’d you go to school?”

Chang answers, “It was in the University of Hawaii. They have a program just for … essentially mission … missions work. … They teach you about aid practices, the different methodologies, and how to stay safe in a disaster zone.”

A University of Hawaii spokesperson says the school does not have a Mina Chang of her age in their records, and that the university does not offer a “degree in international development.”

The magazine Monday published an editor’s note, saying the article was based on false information from Chang.

“As other falsehoods and misleading statements come to light, we’ve made the decision to preserve the text as it was originally published in May 2012. We stand by our reporting at the time, and we want this article to serve as a snapshot of the narrative Ms. Chang promoted then.”

Chang denies that she exaggerated her resume or the extent of her charity’s work.

In a statement issued through a spokesman, Chang said that she had been vetted by the FBI and the State Department’s diplomatic security service for her current job as well as the post she was nominated for at USAID and received a “top-secret” security clearance.

After the NBC report last week, the State Department reviewed her application materials again and found she had “in no way misled officials during the investigation,” Chang’s statement said.

The State Department has declined to comment on her case.

Chang was not allowed by the State Department to respond to NBC News’ requests for comment before the report was published last week, her statement said.

Chang insisted it was her decision to withdraw her nomination in September for a senior post at USAID. “She voluntarily elected to withdraw her nomination because after working with her team at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, she became excited by the team’s talent and potential and the impact they could have together,” the statement said.

As for the fake Time magazine cover, “Ms. Chang was not responsible for the creation of the Time magazine cover, nor promoted it,” the statement said.

NBC discovered the fake TIME cover from watching a video that was posted on her charity website.

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