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Jan 02
Her eye on the news
Innocence Project

A woman whom activists for the Innocence Project say was falsely accused of killing a homeless man whose penis was cut off has officially been freed by a Las Vegas judge, but not before she spent nearly 16 years in prison. Kirstin Blaise Lobato, 35, was reportedly convicted in two seperate murder trials in a case in which the prosecution reportedly had zero witnesses and refused to examine DNA evidence. A third trial was set to proceed after a judge ruled that Lobato’s conviction may have been caused by ineffective assistance of counsel, but taking into account her time served prosecutors said they would decline to pursue a third trial.

“By the time the third trial could proceed, Lobato would be immediately eligible for parole if convicted,” said Las Vegas Chief Deputy District Attorney Sandra DiGiacomo. “Although we fully believe in her guilt, as did the 24 members of our community who found her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, our resources are such that we are electing not to proceed with the third trial of this defendant, particularly considering the more than 15 years she has served in prison.”

While a medical examiner for the prosecution had claimed that the homeless man, 44-year-old Duran Bailey, died as early as 10 p.m. on July 7, 2001, four forensics experts for the defense testified in October that evidence implied he hadn’t died until 9 p.m. on July 8. Uncontested evidence presented by Lobato’s defense team had shown that she was in her hometown of Panaca, more than a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, at that time. In 2007, Lobato was given an additional one-year conviction for sexual conduct between a prisoner and another person, but lead defense attorney Vanessa Potkin, director of post-conviction litigation for the Innocence Project, said that they would nonetheless push for Lobato’s immediate release.

Watch more about Lobato’s case in the two videos below.

Read the full story at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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Twitter politics

It may be a new year, but if you were expecting a new Donald Trump to show up, well, you’re out of luck. In yet another bizarre and troubling attack launched on Twitter, President Donald Trump has accused the Department of Justice of being part of the “Deep State” while simultaneously calling on the organization to jail longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Previous presidents have considered exerting political influence over the Department of Justice to be inappropriate, but Trump, like he has with many aspects of the presidency, has displayed little restraint in trying to sway how the department operates.

“Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid [sic], Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents,” wrote Trump. “Remember sailors [sic] pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others.”

Trump’s latest outburst was an apparent response to the State Department’s release of classified emails found on the laptop of Abedin’s estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, which the FBI famously investigated during the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign. While Clinton was eventually cleared of criminal wrongdoing, Trump has nonetheless continued to call for further investigations of his former political rival while simultaneously deriding claims that Russia interfered in the election as a “witch hunt.” U.S. intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI have repeatedly confirmed that Russia interfered in the presidential election, and that their efforts had been largely intended to help Trump win.

Claims that Trump sexually harassed or assaulted more than a dozen women prior to his election are also “fake news,” according to the president, who wrote in a Tweet that he had never even met any of the women who had accused him. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and more than 100 Democrats have called for an investigation into Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct, accusations to which Trump has responded by attacking Gillibrand’s character.

Following the 2016 election, Abedin’s name was dragged into into the headlines last year as her husband, a former congressman, became embroiled in another sex scandal, one that landed him a 21-month prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to having carried on “obscene communications with this teenager, including sharing explicit images and encouraging her to engage in sexually explicit conduct.”

Read the full story at Politico.

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‘Not over yet’

Former Miss America Gretchen Carlson has been named chairwoman of the pageant’s board of directors, marking a step forward for the organization as it attempts to move on from the harassment scandal that led to the resignation of three of its top executives last month. Carlson, a former Fox News anchor, has been actively working to combat workplace sexual harassment since she famously helped oust Fox New CEO Roger Ailes by recording him appearing to demand sex in return for her continued employment.

On December 21, HuffPost published emails written by former Miss America chief executive Sam Haskell in which he made misogynistic remarks about former pageant winner Mallory Hagan and others. In the email chain, other organization leaders were also seen chiming in with their own shaming comments about former pageant winners. A day later, Carlson and 49 other pageant winners called for the resignation of those involved in the email chain, leading to the subsequent resignation of Haskell, president Josh Randle, chairwoman Lynn Weidner and several other board members.

“The woman of Miss America are determined to take back our program,” declared Carlson and 1998 Miss America winner Kate Shindle in wake of the resignations. “This is not over yet.”

Since then, Miss America has added three former pageant winners, including Shindle, to its board. After the news of Carlson’s appointment as chairwoman, she posted a note on Twitter saying that she is “honored to move this iconic program forward with so many amazing volunteers.”

“Everyone has been stunned by the events of the last several days, and this has not been easy for anyone who loves this program,” Carlson said. “In the end, we all want a strong, relevant Miss America and we appreciate the existing board taking the steps necessary to quickly begin stabilizing the organization for the future.”

Below, watch Carlson’s appearance onstage last year at the Women in the World New York Summit, where she discussed her role in bringing down Ailes at Fox News and also talked about strategies women can use after they face sexual harassment in the workplace. Highlights and the full video appearance are below. And mark your calendar — the 2018 New York Summit is coming up. It’s slated to take place April 12-14. Click here for more info.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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'Popular decision'

NBC rang in the new year on Tuesday by announcing that longtime reporter and anchor Hoda Kotb be would officially take over the Today show anchor chair left vacant after Matt Lauer was fired in late November amid a slew of sexual misconduct allegations. Savannah Guthrie made the announcement at the top of Tuesday’s edition of the show, saying, “It’s 2018 and we are kicking off the year right, because Hoda is officially the co-anchor of Today. Let’s give her a round of applause.” As the in-studio staff and Guthrie (and tourists looking in the studio windows from outside) clapped for Kotb, Guthrie added, “This has to be the most popular decision NBC News has ever made, and I am so thrilled.”

“There’s no one I’d rather be sitting next to in 2018 than you,” Kotb said to Guthrie as the two embraced hands. Watch the moment the news was announced below.

The news of Kotb’s promotion brought congratulations from her NBC News colleagues, several of whom gave her a shoutout on Twitter, and others.

2017 was a pivotal year in Kotb’s personal life. In February, after a noticeable absence from the show, of which she has long hosted the fourth hour with Kathie Lee Gifford, Kotb revealed to viewers that she had adopted a baby girl, Haley Joy. Later on Tuesday’s show, as she was talking with Megyn Kelly, who joined the Today show in 2017, Kotb’s daughter was on her mind. Since the day Haley was born, everything changed,” Kotb said. “And everything keeps getting better.”

Kelly posited that Kotb’s infectious positivity is coming back and rewarding her. Watch the moment below.

As Brian Stelter of CNN pointed out, Kotb joined NBC in 1998. The decision by the network to feature two women as the co-anchors of the iconic morning TV franchise is a departure from conventional wisdom, Stelter noted. Given how the male portion of the show’s anchor setup recently turned out, though, this seems like a wise move indeed by the Peacock Network.

“Over the past several weeks, Hoda has seamlessly stepped into the co-anchor role alongside Savannah, and the two have quickly hit the ground running,” NBC News chairman Andy Lack wrote in a statement. “They have an undeniable connection with each other and most importantly, with viewers, a hallmark of Today.”

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Pick & roll with it

In the last few years, the NBA has seen a significant rise in the number of women fighting for their own courtside seats among the league’s leadership. Where once it was only a boys’ club, women can now be found in a variety of key positions, pulling the strings behind some of the biggest decisions in professional basketball.

While the NBA has one of the best reputations in the sports world for its conscious commitment to increasing gender diversity, the majority of positions held by women still tend to fall within the realms of marketing or public relations rather than administration. But Becky Bonner, director of player development and quality control for the Orlando Magic, has her eye on the general manager prize and, according to Magic President Jeff Weltman, she’s got “unlimited potential.”

Bonner — who’s elder brother Matt played 12 seasons in the NBA — was a former Division I player and already a six-year front office veteran of the league.  “I speak player,” Bonner explained in an interview with Bleacher Report. “When I’m on the court, I’m very comfortable,” Bonner explained, citing that simply by association as “Matt’s sister,” she was able to get an early look into the inner workings of the NBA.

As director of player development, Bonner handles everything from the redesign of the team lounge, to organizing team dinners, to renewing player passports. “I’m not too cool to do anything,” Bonner says. “If you need me to rebound for you in my skirt, I will. If you need me to look at the players lounge and redesign it, I’ll do that — even though I may lack that talent.”

“As anyone who has daughters, you’re always hoping that, as we all progress, we get to the point where none of this matters, whether it’s hiring practices or compensation,” Magic president Jeff Weltman explains speaking to Becky’s credentials, “And we look for the best people, the people that can most dramatically impact our chance to win … Becky was that person for us.”

While nothing is set in stone, Bonner remains focused on her end goal, but whether or not she makes it to G.M. first, for the NBA, a female GM is no longer just a possibility — it’s an eventuality.

Read the full story at Bleacher Report.

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01.02.18