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Feb 13
Her eye on the news
‘Lunacy & machismo’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte drew widespread condemnation on Tuesday after he claimed that soldiers should render women rebels “useless” by shooting them in the vagina. Speaking before a crowd that included 200 former rebels last week, Duterte said that he was frustrated that women were eschewing their duty to raise children and instead joining the communist rebel group New People’s Army.

“Tell the soldiers, ‘There’s a new order coming from the mayor,’” said Duterte, referring to his former role as mayor of Davao City. “‘We will not kill you. We will just shoot you in the vagina.’”

Duterte, who allegedly employed extra-judicial death squads to murder suspected drug users and pushers as part of an anti-drug campaign during his mayoral tenure, added that he would pay soldiers $400 for “every NPA you kill.”

Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Philippine rights group Karapatan, was among the many to denounce Duterte’s comments.

“Duterte has distinguished himself as a frothing-in-the-mouth fascist who incites the worst violations of international humanitarian law,” said Palabay, adding that the President had also told soldiers that he would give them immunity if they committed war crimes against the rebels. “His recent comments and pronouncements are but the latest of the series of these madman’s display of tyranny, lunacy and machismo.”

Carlos Conde, a representative from Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, also described Duterte’s speech as “just the latest in a series of misogynist, derogatory and demeaning statements he has made about women.”

Among those misogynist comments, no doubt, was Duterte’s 2016 claim that he wished he’d been able to have sex with a “beautiful” Australian missionary who had been raped and killed, as well as a more recent ‘joke’ in which he suggested that Muslim rebels and others should come to the Philippines to enjoy their ‘42 virgins’ rather than waiting for the afterlife.

Read the full story at USA Today and The New York Times.

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‘Liar’

The ex-wives of former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter have responded to President Donald Trump’s apparent insinuation that they lied about being physically and verbally abused by Porter during their respective marriages with him. Porter resigned from The White House on Wednesday after his alleged abuse of Jennifer Willoughby and Colbie Holderness was publicized, even as Chief of Staff John Kelly hailed Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor” while Trump repeatedly emphasized that Porter had denounced his ex-wives’ claims as lies. In respective Op-Ed’s for TIME magazine and The Washington Post, Willoughby and Holderness both addressed Trump’s comments, as well as a tweet sent out by the president a few days after Porter’s resignation, in which he bemoaned how a “mere allegation” can destroy the careers of the “falsely accused.”

“There it is again,” wrote Willoughby in reference to the tweet. “The words ‘mere allegation’ and ‘falsely accused’ are meant to imply that I am a liar. That Colbie Holderness is a liar. That the work Rob was doing in the White House was of higher value than our mental, emotional or physical wellbeing. That his professional contributions are worth more than the truth. That abuse is something to be questioned and doubted.”

Trump was hardly the first one to question whether or not she had abused, Willoughby added. Society itself, she explained, always questions the victim’s account ahead of the abuser’s — a phenomenon she chalked up to a subconscious desire to pretend that such terrible things don’t really happen. Victims, she said, can have their self-esteem so run into the ground by repeated abuse that even they are left unsure of whether what’s happening to them is real — or whether they’ve just gone “crazy.”

Rob Porter’s ex-wife Colbie Holderness in a photo she said was taken after Porter punched her in the face years ago while the two were married. (Twitter)

Writing for The Washington Post, Holderness noted that a recent ex-girlfriend of Porter’s had reached out to Willoughby and herself to share her own account of abuse at his hands. The ex-girlfriend asked the two of them: “Am I crazy?”

“Boy, I could identify with that question,” wrote Holderness.

Holderness also took exception with comments from White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who claimed that she wasn’t concerned for White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who is reportedly dating Porter, because she had “rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”

Abuse, Holderness said, happens to women regardless of their “strength,” “instincts,” or “smarts.” Enduring and surviving abuse, she added, takes incredible strength — not to mention coming forward when you know that the President of the United States, as well as his various lackeys, are going to respond by calling your credibility into question.

The scandal has been engulfing the White House for nearly a week now and on Tuesday CNN reported that Porter was up for a promotion, according to anonymous sources — despite White House officials having known about the abuse allegations from his ex-wives.

Read the full story at TIME magazine and The Washington Post.

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America’s dragon

Chloe Kim became the first woman to land consecutive 1080s in a halftime at the Olympics on Tuesday, taking the Olympic gold with a run that scored 98.25 out of a possible 100 points. Kim, who scored a 93.75 in her first run of the halfpipe final, was the only competitor in the women’s competition to score above a 90 on any of her individual runs. Even before her record-setting final run, Kim, a California native, had already secured the gold medal.

“I knew if I went home with the gold medal knowing that I could do better, I wasn’t going to be very satisfied,” the 17-year-old said. “That situation, I did put down a really good first run, but I was like, ‘I can do better than that. I can one-up myself.’ The third run was for me to prove to myself if I did it, and I could go home really happy and excited.” Kim tweeted about being stoked about her gold medal performance after the race.

Kim grew up far from the snowboarding tracks — her father, Jong Jin, who was born in South Korea, used to drive her five-and-a-half hours from La Palma so that she could practice on Mammoth Mountain. On Tuesday, Jong Jin could be seen in the grandstands at the halfpipe holding a sign that read, “Go Chloe!” Speaking with the media, he revealed that he had told her “today is the day [she] will turn into a dragon” — a reference to a Korean myth in which a snake transforms itself into a dragon and soars through the sky.

Kim says she hopes her exploits can inspire others, young and old, to be bold enough to try new things.

“I think I was so fortunate to find my passion and the thing that brought me so much joy at such a young age,” she explained. “I think, you know, if you’re young — even if you’re old, it doesn’t matter how old you are — but if you find something that you really want to try, just give it a try. You’re never going to know. The one thing I learned is, just give everything a shot. You don’t want to live in regret.”

Watch video of Kim’s record-setting run below.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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Reflections

Iconic young adult fiction writer Judy Blume turned 80 on Monday, and to mark the occasion, she spoke to NPR’s Racherl Martin about her storied career. Among the subjects Blume touched on was #MeToo — and what she perceives as a generational gap within the groundbreaking movement.

Blume was among the protesters who converged on Washington last year to take part in the Women’s March, and she told NPR that she identifies as a feminist. But Blume also believes that women of her age have a different perspective on how we should view the work of creative people who are accused of sexual misconduct.

“That doesn’t mean that women of my generation can’t support the #MeToo movement,” Blume said. “Where we may differ is, ‘Is it OK to enjoy the art of someone who we now know may have been abusive to women?’ To me, the answer is yes, I can. And I don’t want museums to take away art because we now know that that artist from a different era may have been abusive to women.” She also noted that she “will continue to see Woody Allen movies because I’m very interested in Woody Allen the filmmaker.”

When asked if she plans to update any of her books to align with the new era ushered in by #MeToo, Blume said she is happy to let her much-loved characters be. “I don’t want to rewrite anything,” she said. “My characters are who they are. For years, people have written and asked me to let Margaret [of the novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret] go through menopause. And it’s like, ‘Hey guys! Margaret is 12 and she is going to stay 12. That’s who she is.’ No, I don’t want to rewrite any of them.”

Read or listen to the full interview at NPR.

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‘Ashamed’

Penny Lawrence, the deputy chief executive of Oxfam, stepped down Monday in the midst of revelations that the British charity severely mishandled allegations of sexual misconduct against its aid workers in what is the second large-scale sex scandal involving British charities to erupt this year.

As The Guardian explains, Oxfam discovered that staff members working in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake had paid for sex, and some of the sex workers involved were allegedly underage. The country director Roland van Hauwermeiren was implicated in the allegations. Oxfam officials did not, however, report the aid workers to police in Haiti, and did not warn other charities about them when they left the organization. It has also been reported that Oxfam had previously received complaints about van Hauwermeiren and another worker’s behavior in Chad, but nevertheless allowed them to work in Haiti.

According to the BBC, Lawrence said in a statement that she was “ashamed” of the organization’s handling of the scandal. “Concerns were raised about the behavior of staff in Chad as well as Haiti that we failed to adequately act upon,” she said in a statement,” she said. “It is now clear that these allegations – involving the use of prostitutes and which related to the behavior of both the country director and members of his team in Chad – were raised before he moved to Haiti.”

Hours after Lawrence resigned, Helen Evans, Oxfam’s former head of safeguarding, said that she had warned senior management of a pervasive culture of abuse among Oxfam offices across the globe. In the course of a single day, Evans told the U.K.’s Channel 4, she had received reports “of a woman being coerced to have sex in a humanitarian response by another aid worker, another case where a woman had been coerced in exchange for aid and another one where it had come to our attention where a member of staff had been struck off for sexual abuse and hadn’t disclosed that and we were then concerned about what he might be doing.”

She also said that staff at U.K. Oxfam stores had been accused of rape and sexual abuse against volunteers, some of whom were underage.

Though Oxfam denies a coverup, the U.K.’s Charity Commission has launched a statutory inquiry into the organization. Oxfam received £ 34 million (around $47 million) in government funds last year. The European Commission, which also gives the charity £29.3 million (around $40 million) per year, has said that it is considering pulling its funding.

For more on the story, watch the video below.

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Despicable

Police have charged a 19-year-old Washington man with manslaughter after he raped a high school student as she was dying of a drug overdose. According to The Associated Press, Brian Roberto Varela also texted semi-nude photos of 18-year-old Alyssa Mae Noceda to his friends.

Court documents reveal that Varela told detectives Noceda had snorted Percocet and ingested liquid marijuana before collapsing at his house. Instead of calling for help, Varela texted friends, “LOL, I think she od’d, still breathing.” He also told a friend that Noceda “died while having sex with me.”

Police discovered Noceda’s body in a plastic crate at Varela’s home. The suspect reportedly told police that he had planned to bury the body with onions in order to mask the smell.

Valera has been charged with second-degree rape and controlled substance homicide. A GoFundMe page has been set up to aid Noceda’s grieving family. Her mother, Gina Pierson, has been posting tributes to her slain daughter on Facebook in the wake of the brutal crime.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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‘Incredibly scary’

Vanessa Trump, who is married to Donald Trump Jr., was sent to the hospital as a precaution after opening a letter that contained a white powder. According to NBC News, the NYPD has determined that the substance was not hazardous and the Secret Service is investigating the incident.

The parcel was addressed to Donald Trump Jr., but Vanessa ended up opening the letter and then complained of dizziness and nausea following exposure to the powder, according to The New York Times. Three people from the household, including Vanessa and her mother, were taken to the hospital.

The package reportedly had a Boston postmark and also reportedly included an angry letter directed at Donald Trump Jr.

“Thankful that Vanessa & my children are safe and unharmed after the incredibly scary situation that occurred this morning,” Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter. “Truly disgusting that certain individuals choose to express their opposing views with such disturbing behavior.”

For more on the story, watch the video below.

Read the full story at NBC News and The New York Times.

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02.13.18