In 2001, Stacey founded DiscussionDIVAS as an outlet for women to discuss current events and happenings in a social setting. Groups met in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York for dinner, wine and conversation. In 2006 she took the concept online through the WeeklyDIVA email. Today she’s editor of the WeeklyDIVA and also a working journalist in San Francisco. DiscussionDIVAS

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Discussion Divas June News Roundup

A favorite website of the TodaysMama staff is Discussion Divas – their weekly newsletters explore current events in a thought provoking, informative and refreshing way. Each month we’ll bring you a monthly round-up from the Discussion Divas as part of the MamaVote project.

McCain vs. Obama: Round One
If you found yourself near a TV on Wednesday morning, you might have seen Michelle Obama hosting “The View,” complete with fist bumps all around. Part of the campaign’s attempt to reshape her image, the appearance was by most accounts a success, and a sure sign that the presidential campaign–the real deal–is finally underway.

Gasoline and votes
If the recent wall-to-wall media coverage is any indicator, soaring gas prices may be the most important issue in the 2008 campaign. Whether or not Barack Obama and John McCain can really do anything about them is seriously debatable, but that doesn’t mean they won’t at least try to look like they can.

This week McCain called for the federal government to lift its ban on offshore oil drilling, a ban he used to support. He also wants to add more oil refineries and nuclear power plants, and said in a speech that “conservation serves a critical national goal”–a statement that is unusual only because it came from the mouth of the Republican presidential candidate. He also supports a federal gas-tax holiday this summer.

Obama, in contrast, opposes offshore drilling and instead wants to hit the oil companies with a windfall profits tax, which McCain opposes. Obama also supports government subsidies for alternative fuels such as ethanol.

Read the rest of this article, including more about Obama and McCain’s use of public financing for their campaigns, here.

Religion and the Election
The state of South Carolina is set to begin churning out “I Believe” specialty license plates, complete with a cross and stained-glass window, thanks to a unanimous vote by the state legislature and a swift signature from the governor. It’s the first of its kind in the country, decidedly Christian, and sure seems to blur the line between church and state—not mention alienate those of other faiths.
Meanwhile, religion is heating up on the campaign trail, with both John McCain and Barack Obama courting religious voters. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll look at where the candidates are in terms of support from a variety of groups. This week, we’ll use the “I Believe” news to look at their standing with some Christian groups.

McCain and the religious right
For years we’ve been hearing about the role of conservative Christians and evangelicals in political campaigns. These groups were key to the success of President Bush in 2000 and 2004.
However, many of these groups are on the fence about McCain. Some religious conservatives say they are considering not voting at all, or want a better understanding of where he falls on hot-button issues and whom he will pick as a running mate.

So McCain is strengthening his rhetoric, criticizing California ’s gay marriage ruling and touting his anti-abortion stance. However McCain, an Episcopalian turned Baptist, also knows he may need to temper his religious talk to attract moderate and independent voters.

Obama and religion
Obama, who has not been shy about talking about his faith, is doing his share of religious courting as well. He met on Tuesday with Christian leaders in Chicago, including some conservative religious leaders like Bishop T.D. Jakes, who heads up a huge church in Dallas. His campaign is expected to try to court evangelicals and Catholics too.

Read the rest of this article, including more about the “religious left”, here.

Women and Content
Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House may have folded this week, but she certainly succeeded in advancing the cause of women as much as any politician in U.S. history. And while we’re excited for the upcoming race between Barack Obama and John McCain, we’ll never forget the image of a strong woman on the campaign trail. We hope to see another viable female candidate in every presidential election to come.

The question is, are the rest of us up to the challenge? Earlier this week The New York Times media columninst David Carr penned an interesting piece musing about the success of the “Sex and the City” movie (it took in about $55 million in its first weekend at the box office) and the rise of female-targeted web sites. The Times headlined his column aptly, “Slumber Parties Go Digital.”
As my sister said, Carr’s argument is not rocket science: Coverage of celebrity pregnancies, fashion, weddings and shoes is as popular online as it is in the women’s magazines that many of us have a love-hate relationship with. His final analysis: The revolution for women on the Web so far is “shallow, but one that carries deep implications.”

Read the rest of this article and answer the question, “What do women readers want?”, here.

More Colleges Go Test-free
As graduation bells ring across the country, high school seniors may be cheering, but so may juniors after learning that two more colleges dropped SAT and ACT testing requirements for admission this week.

About 750 schools are now “test optional.” The latest schools to drop the tests as necessary for admission are Smith College and Wake Forest University. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest as the 30th best university in the country, and Smith as the 17th best liberal arts college, so we’re not talking obscure institutions here. So far, though, most schools that have dropped SAT and ACT have been smaller outfits. The University of California schools considered dropping the tests in 2001 but in the end did not.

Why are schools dropping the tests?
In 2006 American students posted the lowest average score on the SAT in 31 years.
The scores dropped again in 2007. The College Board, which administers the test, says the drop in scores was due to changes in test-taking habits, but there has been much debate through the years over whether these tests truly predict academic success – and hence if colleges and universities should use them as a benchmark for admission.
Others question the fairness of the test, saying that some students are at an inherent disadvantage because of their background—income level, parents’ education, quality of high school, etc.
Wake Forest says they hope to attract a broader pool of applicants by eliminating the tests.

U.S. college graduate statistics

  • Just 30% of U.S. adults over the age of 25 say they have a bachelor’s degree
  • College graduates make about $25,000 more annually than those with high school diplomas
  • 33% of women 25-29 years old had earned a BA in 2007 vs 26% of men

Read the rest of this article and get the big picture including the Presidential candidates stance on No Child Left Behind, here.

These articles are brought to you by WeeklyDIVA. Stay informed EACH WEEK with the WeeklyDIVA, which boils down hot topics in the news into just enough to help you survive any dinner party conversation.

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