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Feb 09
Her eye on the news
‘I miss him’

Legendary downhill skier Lindsey Vonn shed tears during a Winter Olympics news conference in PyeongChang on Friday after a reporter asked her about her late grandfather, Don Kildow, who passed in November at the age of 88. Vonn, 33, became the first American woman to win a downhill gold during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but was forced to miss the last Olympics in Sochi due to a knee injury. In December, Vonn told CNN’s Alpine Edge that her grandfather had been the one who encouraged her to pursue the sport, and that without his influence she “wouldn’t be racing.”

“It’s really hard,” Vonn said on Friday, after CNN’s Coy Wire asked about how her memories of her grandfather resonated with her as she prepared to compete in South Korea. “I wish you wouldn’t have said that. It’s really hard for me not to cry. I just want so badly to do well for him and … I miss him so much.”

“He’s been such a big part of my life,” said Vonn, as tears formed in her eyes. “And I really hoped he’d be alive to see me but I know he’s watching and I know that he’s going to help me. And … I’m going to win for him.”

Vonn competed while nursing an injury for a significant portion of the last racing season after she broke an arm and suffered nerve damage in her hand. Despite those setbacks, Vonn is a favorite to win gold at this year’s downhill event after she managed to win four World Cup races — including back-to-back downhills — coming into the Olympics. Vonn’s 81 World Cup victories ranks her as the second-most successful competitive skier of all-time for both men and women — trailing only behind Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 World Cup victories.

Watch video of Vonn’s press conference below.

Read the full story at CNN.

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'Very tough'

President Donald Trump addressed the latest scandal engulfing his administration on Friday — and he did it in about the most Donald Trump way possible. The president made his first comments on this week’s abrupt departure of White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter after his two ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, leveled spousal abuse allegations against him. And Trump defended the vanquished aide.

“We wish him well. He worked very hard. I found out about it recently and I was surprised by it. We certainly wish him well. It’s obviously a very tough time for him. He did a very good job while he was in the White House.”

“We hope that he will have a wonderful career,” Trump continues. “Now, he also as you probably know, he says he’s innocent. And I think you have to remember that,” he added. Trump also said he was “very sad” when he learned of the allegations. Not surprisingly, Trump made no mention of Holderness and Willoughby.

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Silenced

A Saudi woman has reportedly been detained for 18 days and counting over Facebook posts she made criticizing Saudi Arabia’s normalization of relations with Israel. Noha al-Balawi could face up to five years in prison under the country’s cybercrime law, which allows for imprisonment of anyone “who creates or transmits anything prejudicial to public order,” according to human rights group ALQST. Despite an earlier promise from Saudi authorities that Al-Balawi would be released after five days, ALQST said that she has remained in detention since entering police custody on January 23.

Al-Balawi is reportedly being investigated over a viral video clip in which she declared that “normalization means accepting the occupation” and that “there is not a single benefit for Arabs when we normalize relations with Israel.” She is also allegedly being questioned over past posts in which she declared that the government should allow women to drive. Last September, the Saudi government announced that it would begin granting women driver’s licenses this coming June. ALQST has described al-Balawi’s imprisonment as an “obvious attempt” at silencing her, and called for her “immediate and unconditional release” as well as for the restoration of her social media accounts.

News of Al-Balawi’s detention came on the heels of the Thursday sentencing of Saudi journalist Saleh al-Shehi, who was given five years in prison for “insulting the royal court” by discussing corruption during a January television appearance. According to Human Rights Watch, Al-Shehi is the most recent of a number of peaceful activists to be tried by the Specialized Criminal Court, which is supposed to serve as the country’s terrorism tribunal.

Read the full story at Al Jazeera.

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‘I am truly sorry’

Scrutiny of famed movie director Quentin Tarantino has redoubled following Uma Thurman’s claim that he knowingly put her at risk during the filming of Kill Bill, leading some to point out that the singer Fergie had once spoken out about Tarantino biting her during the filming of Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. Fergie’s claim was buried in the special bonus footage for Grindhouse, a 2007 double feature that included Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof. In Planet Terror, Tarantino had played the role of a zombie who attacks Fergie. In an interview included in the footage, Fergie revealed a visible bruise on her shoulder and said, “Quentin fucking bit me.”

“By the end of this shoot, I will bite him back,” she added.

In wake of the renewed publicity over the footage, Fergie, 42, spoke to Entertainment Tonight to clarify that she hadn’t accused Tarantino of wrongdoing, and that the two of them had been having a good time playacting their roles.

“I stand with victims everywhere no matter what genre, race, gender, age. I stand with victims period, and I don’t want to take away from anyone’s story,” Fergie said. “That just wasn’t my story.”

“We were just kind of having banter. We were having a little bit of fun,” she added.

Samantha Geimer appears in court at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center on June 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Geimer was assaulted by Director Roman Polanski in Los Angeles in 1977 when she was age 13. (Photo by Paul Buck – Pool/Getty Images)

Tarantino has also taken heat during the past week for his previous comments about Samantha Geimer, who was allegedly raped by director Roman Polanski when she was 13. In a 2003 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Tarantino had claimed that Polanski hadn’t raped Geimer because she was a “party girl” and “she wanted to have it.” Speaking with The New York Daily News, Geimer, now 54, said that she did “not need other people weighing in on what it’s like getting raped at 13.”

“He was wrong. I bet he knows it,” said Geimer about Tarantino. “I’m not upset, but I would probably feel better if he realizes now that he was wrong, after 15 years, after hearing the facts.”

Tarantino has since apologized by phone to Geimer, and released an official statement to IndieWire in which he claimed that he had “played devil’s advocate … for the sake of being provocative.”

“Fifteen years later, I realize how wrong I was,” wrote Tarantino. “Ms. Geimer WAS raped by Roman Polanski … I didn’t didn’t take Ms. Geimer’s feelings into consideration and for that I am truly sorry. So, Ms. Geimer, I was ignorant, and insensitive, and above all, incorrect.”

Read the full story at The Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Tonight, and IndieWire.

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Hypocrisy?

A California assemblywoman whom many have hailed as a national leader of the #MeToo movement has been accused of sexually harassing and groping a young male staffer and a prominent Sacramento lobbyist.

Daniel Fierro, the president of Presidio Strategic Communications, told Politico that he was a 25-year-old staffer working for Assemblyman Ian Calderon when he was groped by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, the chair of California’s Legislative Women’s Caucus. The incident, he alleged, occured in 2014, when he was approached by Garcia while he was cleaning up after an annual Assembly softball game. Fierro claims that Garcia, who appeared to be intoxicated, began stroking his back and then squeezed his buttocks. When she tried to feel his crotch, he said, he swiftly excused himself. Fierro said that he didn’t report the incident until this past January, when he took inspiration from the #MeToo movement and came forward to Calderon, his former boss, who referred his claim to the Assembly Rules Committee for investigation. Garcia has denied any wrongdoing.

Fierro told Politico that he hadn’t come forward earlier out of fear of possible repercussions for his then fledgling communications business, pointing out that while his claim was supposed to be anonymous that within 48 hours of it reaching the committee he “was getting calls” from outside sources about the case. Furthermore, since Fierro no longer works for the legislature, he doesn’t receive the legal protections afforded to staffers — which were recently expanded in California. Pointing out that most staffers “don’t stick around long,” he said his case highlighted the limits of current protections for victims of sexual harassment in the Assembly.

A lobbyist who declined to be named out of fear of possible repercussions also said that Garcia was drunk when she began making crude sexual remarks to him and attempted to fondle his crotch at a 2017 fundraiser.

Garcia, who was featured as a silence breaker in TIME’s Person of the Year issue, which she noted in a post on Twitter in December, responded to the claims by saying she had “zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior and such behavior is inconsistent with my values.” She added that she promised to “participate fully in any investigation” and that “every complaint about sexual harassment should be taken seriously.” On Friday, Garcia said she is taking an unpaid leave of absence while the accusations are investigated, The Mercury News reported. But Garcia disputed the claims and said she was taking leave so as to not become a distraction to the investigation. She posted a statement on Twitter, saying, “Upon reflection of the details alleged, I am certain I did not engage in the behavior I am accused of. However, as I’ve said before, any claims about sexual harassment must be taken seriously, and I believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard of accountability.”

Read the full story at Politico and The Associated Press.

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Tragedy

Jill Messick, a veteran movie executive who in 1997 was Rose McGowan’s manager and then later worked for Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax Films, died this week at the age of 50. In an open letter published by The Hollywood Reporter, Messick’s family said she committed suicide and that she had battled depression and bipolar disorder her entire life.

But there was far more than that weighing on Messick in recent months, her family said in a statement that criticized McGowan, Weinstein and the media at large for the fact that Messick’s name had repeatedly been surfacing in the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Prior to joining Miramax, Messick was Rose McGowan’s manager. She represented McGowan in 1997 and set up a meeting with Weinstein at a hotel, a meeting at which McGowan has since alleged she was raped by the movie mogul. However, Messick’s family said the late movie executive had disputed the version of events McGowan has been discussing in the press recently.

“Following the meeting, Rose told Jill what had happened — that she made the decision to remove her clothes and get in the hot tub with him — a mistake which Rose immediately regretted. Rose never once used the word rape in that conversation,” Messick’s family said. “Despite this, Jill recognized that Harvey had done something untoward to Rose, if not illegal. She immediately went to her bosses” and alerted them to the inappropriate behavior, which laid the groundwork for the settlement McGowan and Weinstein eventually reached. Messick was never a part of those negotiations, her family said. However, in some of her recent media appearances, McGowan has been bringing up Messick’s name, which prompted Weinstein to leak emails from Ben Affleck and Messick, without obtaining her consent, showing that she had emailed him with her memories of the 20-year-old incident, and still didn’t recall McGowan having accused him of rape at the time.

Another point the family made in the statement was that Messick had refrained from publicly speaking out to dispute McGowan’s claims so as to not discourage other women from coming forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. “‘The Movement’ just lost one of its own,” the statement declared, adding that Messick “supported every woman finally coming forward to share their dark truths and expose those who had committed previously unspeakable deeds. She was loyal. She was strong. Jill was many things, but she was not a liar.”

Messick’s family went on to criticize McGowan, Weinstein and the media for dragging her name into a “new culture of unlimited information sharing and a willingness to accept statement as fact” and the “devastating” toll it took on her.

On Twitter, the news prompted debate over who is responsible for the tragedy. Some said Weinstein, others pointed the finger at McGowan, while others said the media were to blame. Still others said all three share culpability for Messick’s tragic demise.

Meanwhile, Tina Fey, who worked closely with Messick on the 2004 film Mean Girls, chose to focus on remembering Messick’s legacy as a family woman and film producer. “This is very sad news and my heart goes out to her family,” Fey said. “Jill was instrumental in helping Mean Girls get to the screen. She was a fiercely dedicated producer and a kind person.”

Read the family’s complete statement below:

‘The Movement’ just lost one of its own.

Jill Messick was a mother of two children, a loving wife and partner, a dear friend to many and a smart entertainment executive. She was also a survivor, privately battling depression which had been her nemesis for years.

Today she did not survive. Jill took her own life.

Jill was victimized by our new culture of unlimited information sharing and a willingness to accept statement as fact. The speed of disseminating information has carried mistruths about Jill as a person, which she was unable and unwilling to challenge. She became collateral damage in an already horrific story.

Jill believed in the Movement. She supported every woman finally coming forward to share their dark truths and expose those who had committed previously unspeakable deeds. She was loyal. She was strong. Jill was many things, but she was not a liar.

Over the past few months, many women have come out with allegations against Harvey Weinstein, including Rose McGowan, who has repeatedly spoken with the press, striking out against not only her alleged attacker, but a great many others. One of them was Jill, who chose to remain silent in the face of Rose’s slanderous statements against her for fear of undermining the many individuals who came forward in truth. She opted not to add to the feeding frenzy, allowing her name and her reputation to be sullied despite having done nothing wrong. She never chose to be a public figure, that choice was taken away from her.

Now that Jill can no longer speak for herself, it’s time to set the record straight.

In January 1997, Jill was an entry level manager at Addis Wechsler. One of her first clients was Rose McGowan, and one of Jill’s first duties was to set up a breakfast meeting with Harvey Weinstein during the Sundance Film Festival. Following the meeting, Rose told Jill what had happened — that she made the decision to remove her clothes and get in the hot tub with him — a mistake which Rose immediately regretted. Rose never once used the word rape in that conversation. Despite this, Jill recognized that Harvey had done something untoward to Rose, if not illegal. She immediately went to her bosses, the partners of Addis Wechsler, to recount Rose’s story and to insist that they address the situation. They told Jill that they would take care of it. The ensuing arrangements between Rose and Harvey were then negotiated, completely without Jill’s knowledge. At that time, all Jill knew was that the matter was settled and that Rose continued making films with the Weinsteins. She never knew any details until recently, when Rose elected to make them public.

Ten months later, in November of 1997, Jill received a call from the Miramax exec VP of production, recruiting her for a job as an executive at Miramax Films working in production in Los Angeles. Jill was hired based on merit and her excellent work of over two years as a young development executive working with Woods Entertainment, (before her time at Addis Wechsler).

Rose’s most recent round of press to promote her book have included new stories involving Jill. The constant press attention Rose has garnered in print and on National TV led to Harvey Weinstein releasing two documents. One of these was an email which Jill wrote to him months before the first NY Times piece coming out, and at his request. In this e-mail, Jill offered the truth based on what she remembers Rose telling her about the Sundance account. In the face of Rose’s continued and embellished accusations last week, Harvey took it upon himself to release the e-mail without her consent.

Five years ago, Jill suffered a manic episode. Anyone familiar with bipolar disorder knows that it is a cruel and vicious disease. With the help of doctors, her family and friends, Jill rebounded. Jill had fought to put her life back together. After a long job search, she was in negotiations to run the production division for a new entertainment company.

Seeing her name in headlines again and again, as part of one person’s attempt to gain more attention for her personal cause, along with Harvey’s desperate attempt to vindicate himself, was devastating for her. It broke Jill, who was just starting to get her life back on track.

What makes Rose’s inaccurate accusations and insinuations against Jill ironic was that she was the first person who stood up on Rose’s behalf, and alerted her bosses to the horrific experience which Rose suffered. Twenty years ago, as a very junior person in a management company hierarchy, Jill exhibited her integrity in doing the right thing — she raised the red flag with the heads of her firm. In the face of inappropriate behavior, Jill handled the situation appropriately.

Hers is one of the only stories that has stayed consistent over time as we watch other media reported tales morph to beget further attention.

While journalists serve an important role in exposing predatory behavior, we are seeing irresponsible choices and an addiction to sensationalism which leads to inconsistent storytelling. The media is a powerful tool not to be taken lightly. Most individuals would be horrified to have their name spotlighted in a major international news story — let alone their photograph. We cannot forget that the media is a fearsome tool which cannot be used indiscriminately or even inadvertently to create further victims. There is a responsibility when using a platform to accurately expose criminals, predators, mistruths and misdeeds while protecting the actual truth of third parties.

As we collectively seek to take action in an effort to right the wrongs so brazenly and inhumanely repeated for a generation, we must not forget one simple truth: words have power. While we illuminate the dark corners for hidden truths, we must remember that what we say, particularly in the media, can have just as much impact if not more than our actions. We must ask more of ourselves, and of each other. We must take a moment to consider the ramifications and consequences of what we say and what we do.

Words matter.

Someone’s life may depend on it.

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26%

Canadian newsmagazine Maclean’s is charging men 26 percent more for its latest issue in an effort to spark conversation about the country’s 26 percent pay gap between male and female full-time employees. The magazine said that the initiative was inspired by a 2016 Gender Pay Gap Bake Sale at University of Queensland, in which students offered women lower prices for cupcakes than men in order to raise awareness about Australia’s pay equity gap. The outsized social media backlash to the bake sale — which consisted largely of men calling for the “feminist cunts” who put on the event to be killed or raped — made international headlines. Maclean’s editors, for one, wrote that they were curious as to how Canadians would respond to a similar initiative in their own country.

According to Maclean’s, estimates of the gender pay gap in Canada vary from as low as eight percent to as high as 50 percent, but disparities are markedly higher among women of color and Indigenous women. Given that reality, the magazine has said that it will donate the differential in the cover prices to Indspire, an Indigenous-led charity, in order to help create an education scholarship for an Indigenous woman. Readers, it should be noted, will be free to pay the lower or higher cost of the magazine as they so choose.

Read the full story at Maclean’s.

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02.09.18

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