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Jan 03
Her eye on the news
'Speak now'

If you’ve been wondering why — in the midst of the #MeToo movement that has become a cultural phenomenon since the Harvey Weinstein accusations broke in early October — we’ve heard nothing from the first lady and first daughter about sexual misconduct, you’re not alone. Big screen legend Meryl Streep also thinks Melania and Ivanka Trump should be speaking out about the national movement, she told The New York Times in wide-ranging interview.

“I don’t want to hear about the silence of me,” the three-time Oscar winner, who has found herself the subject of criticism in recent weeks, said. “I want to hear about the silence of Melania Trump. I want to hear from her. She has so much that’s valuable to say. And so does Ivanka. I want her to speak now.”

U.S. first lady Melania Trump (R) and Ivanka Trump . (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

The remarks came in an interview alongside Tom Hanks, her co-star in her latest film, The Post, in which she portrays the legendary and late publisher of The Washington Post, Katharine Graham. Speaking more broadly on the initial shockwaves sent through the industry by the Weinstein revelations, Streep said she was startled at how quickly people were clamoring for her to weigh in. “I don’t have a Twitter thing or — handle, whatever. And I don’t have Facebook. I really had to think. Because it really underlined my own sense of cluelessness, and also how evil, deeply evil, and duplicitous, a person he was, yet such a champion of really great work.”

Streep continued about Weinstein, in response to a question about whether she knew of his abusive behavior. “Well, honestly for me in terms of Harvey, I really didn’t know. I did think he was having girlfriends. But when I heard rumors about actresses, I thought that that was a way of denigrating the actress and her ability to get the job,” Streep said. “That really raised my hackles. I didn’t know that he was in any way abusing people. He never asked me to a hotel room. I don’t know how his life was conducted without people intimately knowing about it.”

Streep went to to discuss a tense moment she had with Dustin Hoffman on the set of the 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer, her first movie, in which Hoffman slapped her, and Hanks closed the discussion by explaining why the two film icons had never worked together on a film until now.

Read the full interview at The New York Times.

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Today in WTF

The former publisher and current chairman of the board for The Anniston Star, a local newspaper in Alabama, has acknowledged accusations that he went to the home of a young reporter and spanked her against her will in the 1970s. H. Brandt Ayers, the son and grandson of the family-owned newspaper, admitted to assaulting reporter Wendy Sigal, who was in her 20s, but claimed that a doctor had told him to do it. Ayers also declined to defend himself against accusations that he spanked another young reporter, then 25-year-old Veronica Pike Kennedy, in The Star newsroom in 1975. At the time, Ayers would have been around 40 years old.

Speaking to The Star, two other women had said that Ayers had spanked numerous other women against their will. Asked about the claims, some of the other women said they recalled another victim, Wendy Sigal, who went to works as a police reporter for The Star at age 25 after stints with The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Former Star editor Trisha O’Connor confirmed the account, and recalled receiving a call from Stigal after the alleged assault.

“She was very, very upset,” said O’Connor. “She said Brandy had been to her apartment. He told her she had been a bad girl and she needed to be spanked — and he spanked her.”

O’Connor added that other former reporters had complained about Ayers’ behavior, but that editors did nothing to help. Instead, she said, women in the newsroom would warn each other to keep their distance from him.

According to Ayers, his intentions were purely altruistic. Sigal, he said, had been going through psychological difficulties, and he had asked a doctor whether he thought a spanking would help “calm her down.” The doctor, whose name Ayers said he has since forgotten, purportedly told the newspaper publisher that a spanking would indeed help the situation. Asked about the claim that he spanked Kennedy, Ayers replied, “Let the accusation stand.”

Speaking with The Star, Ayers made bold claims about his legacy as a publisher, while his wife, the vice-chairman of the paper, appeared to show little sympathy for the alleged victims. Ayers also vowed that he wouldn’t resign and explained why he had no intention of doing so.

Read the full story at The Anniston Star.

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‘Wage disparity’

Longtime Today show veteran Hoda Kotb, who on Tuesday officially replaced the disgraced Matt Lauer as an anchor on the popular morning show, has reportedly received a contract worth less than a third of Lauer’s. Speaking with The New York Post, NBC sources said that Kotb would be making $7 million a year — the same as co-host Savannah Guthrie. Before Lauer was fired for alleged serial sexual harassment of his co-workers over several years, he had commanded $25 million a year.

“Hoda isn’t complaining about the money,” the Post reported one Today show insider having said. “She has landed the big job she always dreamed of, and most definitely deserves. Plus, Matt’s salary reflected the long time he was on the show — 25 years. If things go well, Hoda could ask for more next time if she re-ups her contract. But the figures underline the huge wage disparity at NBC News.”

Kotb is taking on big responsibilities for Today, as she will not only host the morning show from seven to nine a.m., but also appear again with Kathie Lee Gifford during the ten a.m. hour of the show. It’s the first time in the iconic morning show’s history that the prime hours of the program will be anchored by two women.

In comments made to Entertainment Tonight on Tuesday, Kotb revealed that she got a text from Lauer following her promotion, and courted controversy while explaining the difficulty she and other Today hosts were having navigating their prior friendship with Lauer alongside the revelations that had led to his ouster.

“I did hear from [Matt], yeah,” she said. “He texted me and he said congratulations and some really nice words, and it meant the world when I saw the text pop up. My heart just went like, you know, it meant the world to see that.”

“Matt is our good friend and continues to be, and I think for both of us, we’ve just been trying to navigate this time and honor our love and friendship with Matt, but also understand and try to learn more about these circumstances,” she added. “It’s complicated when you are surprised by revelations, but you still care deeply for somebody who’s a friend. I think for all of us, we’ve just been trying to navigate through that, with straightforwardness and honesty and integrity.”

As for her her salary going forward, Kotb may not be complaining about the huge disparity with Lauer’s pay, but some are. At The Daily Beast, senior editor Tim Teeman argues that Kotb deserves to be compensated “handsomely” not only because of the feminist symbol NBC putting forth by elevated her to the Today show anchor, but because she has adeptly held down the anchor chair with aplomb right from the very moment she and Guthrie delivered the stunning news of Lauer’s firing in late November just moments after learning the news herself.

Read the full story at The New York Post.

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Mysterious

A Canadian man who was held hostage together with his wife by the Taliban for five years was arrested on Monday for charges including sexual assault, forcible confinement, drugging, and assault. The charges reportedly stemmed from events that occurred after Joshua Boyle, his wife Caitlan Coleman Boyle, and their three children who were born in captivity were rescued by Pakistani troops and returned to Canada on October 13. According to the Boyles, the extremists had raped Coleman, killed their fourth child as an infant, and savagely beat their eldest son while they were in captivity. It remains unclear why Boyle and Coleman took a trip to the unstable region of Afghanistan in 2012.

Two victims, whose identity is being kept secret, were allegedly targeted by Boyle — including one incident that officials say occurred just a day after the family’s return to Canada. Boyle, 34, had previously been married to Zaynab Khadr, the sister of Omar Khadr, the only Canadian to have been held in the United States military’s infamous Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. In a 2004 interview, Ms. Khadr faced criticism for her defense of the concept of Jihad. Her brother, Omar, now 30, was only 15 when he was taken into custody. Despite a 2010 guilty confession that he said was made under duress, Canadian courts would ultimately find that he was unjustly held — leading to his release in 2015. He was issued a formal apology by the Canadian government this past July.

Boyle’s attorney, Eric Granger, wrote in an email on Tuesday that his client must be “presumed innocent.”

“He’s never been in trouble before,” Granger wrote. “No evidence has been provided yet, which is typical at this early stage.”

Ottawa police have declined to comment on Boyle’s arrest.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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Peer pressure

A new study has found that teenage girls often face intense pressure to send nude photographs, highlighting an acute need to change the way adults frame conversations about “sexting.”

The New York Times reports that Sara Thomas, a doctoral student at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern, analyzed nearly 500 posts on the website A Thin Line, an MTV resource that educates young people about “digital abuse.” The comments were posted by girls ranging in age from 12 to 18, some of whom wrote that they had sent nude photographs simply because they were asked. But others described being subjected to manipulative and — most frequently — coercive tactics.

“i have this boyfriend n he always asks me to send him nude pictures n if i dont he thinks that i dont love him n i really do when i comfronted him about it he said he do love me should i believe him???” one commenter wrote (spelling and grammatical errors are preserved in the samples included in the study).

“I’ve been asked multiple times by my boyfriends and or guy friends to send a nude pic,” another said. “Every time I decline, I either get harrassed for it, insulted, or they just flat out ignore/break up with me.”

“my bf preaused me for hours to send him pictures of me naked,” yet another comment reads. “Now he threarens to send them out if i dont send hin more really nasty pics. The stuff i have to do is unbelievable. im 14.”

In 101 of the posts, girls described being subjected to multiple tactics aimed at eliciting nude pictures. One commenter, for instance, said that a boy had asked for a photo , sent a nude picture of his penis when she refused (“as leverage,” Thomas notes), and finally refused to speak to her.

The results of the study indicate that simply telling girls not to send nude photographs “ignores the complicated tensions they are negotiating on a regular basis,” Thomas told the Times. It is just as important for parents to tell their sons that it is inappropriate and unfair to ask for the photographs in the first place.

“Young women’s attempts to negotiate coercive situations on their own suggest that young women feel it is their burden to manage situations,” Thomas writes in her paper. “This study indicates that these messages have been internalized such that young men are not being held responsible for gaining consent or respecting the boundaries of their partners.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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'Citizen Rose'

Rose McGowan, who has become a galvanizing force in the campaign against sexual harassment in Hollywood, will be the focus of an upcoming documentary series on the E! cable network.

Titled Citizen Rose, the five-part series will follow Rose as she prepares for the release of her memoir, Brave, according to a statement from the network. The show will premiere on January 30, coinciding with the publication of McGowan’s new book, reports the HuffPost. Additional episodes will air in the spring.

In October, McGowan was among the first women to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault; she had previously said that she was raped by a prominent movie executive, leading some to speculate that Weinstein was her attacker. McGowan has recently become a vocal proponent of the #MeToo movement. Weinstein has denied the allegation by McGowan.

“You are formally invited into my mind and world. I am thrilled to partner with E! to amplify my message of bravery, art, joy and survival,” McGowan said in the statement. “I wanted to show how we can heal through art even when being hounded by evil. I want to have a conversation with everyone, and most especially, you, about looking at things differently and seeing beauty everywhere.” In a post on Instagram, McGowan suggested that the idea for Citizen Rose has been in the works for about three years.

Read the full story at HuffPost.

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Bravo!

Iceland rang in 2018 with groundbreaking legislation that has made it illegal to pay men more than women for performing the same job.

As Al Jazeera reports, Icelandic companies and government agencies that employ more than 25 people will now have to obtain certification that confirms they pay male and female employees equally. With its new legislation, Iceland has become the first country in the world to legally enforce equal pay.

“I think that now people are starting to realize that this is a systematic problem that we have to tackle with new methods,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera. The wage gap issue has been simmering in Iceland for quite some time. One day in late October of 2016, women in Iceland protested the country’s 14 percent pay gap by leaving work 14 percent early.

Iceland is certainly on track to close the wage gap by 2022, as its government has promised to do. For the past nine years, the country has ranked first in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, which evaluates countries based on factors like economic opportunities for women, political empowerment and health and survival. Since the World Economic Forum began issuing its report in 2006, Iceland has closed its gender wage gap by 10 percent—a marked and relatively speedy improvement.

Read the full story at Al Jazeera.

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Buh-bye

Al Franken officially stepped down from his post as the junior U.S. Senator from Minnesota on Tuesday, weeks after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct.

“I am grateful to Minnesotans for giving me the chance to serve our state and our nation, and I am proud to have worked on their behalf,” the former Democratic senator wrote in a resignation letter to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. He went through with the resignation despite some Democrats expressing regret that Franken was pressured to resign before an ethics investigation was completed. A poll taken in the final week of 2017 showed a majority of Minnesota voters also thought Franken resigned too soon.

Minnesota Lt. Governor Tina Smith fields questions after being named the replacement for Al Franken by Governor Mark Dayton on December 13, 2017 at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Franken had announced that he would give up his Senate seat in December, days after six female senators called on him to step down. Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, who is due to be sworn in on Wednesday, was selected as his temporary replacement.

Smith has said that she plans to run in a November 2018 special election to decide Franken’s successor. And she may face competition from former Minnesota congresswoman and failed presidential candidate Michele Bachman, who said during an interview with an evangelical television program that she is thinking about running for Franken’s seat.

Former U.S. Rep Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) talks with then-Senator Al Franken (D-MN) in the House chamber after Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko addressed a joint meeting of Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 18, 2014. Bachmann floated the idea of taking a run in the special election for the Senate seat vacated by Franken. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

“I’ve had people contact me and urge me to run for that Senate seat,” Bachmann told The Jim Bakker show, according to CNN. “The question is: Should it be me? Should it be now? But there’s also a price you pay. And the price is bigger than ever because the swamp is so toxic.”

Bachmann also noted that she is thinking about running “for the ability to take these principles into the United States Senate”–and by “these principles,” perhaps she means her reported commitment to gay conversion therapy and crusade against Aladdin.

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01.03.18