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Mar 13
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Child marriage

The idea of child marriage might conjure thoughts of places like Turkey, where, according to experts, nearly one-third of all marriages involve child brides. But in the U.S., child marriage may not seem to many like a blight, though in one state it’s far more common that many might imagine. Since the turn of the century, Missouri has essentially become a wedding destination for 15-year-old brides, who, in many cases, are marrying their rapists.

When Ashley Duncan was 15, she appeared before a pastor in Missouri to be married to her then 18-year-old boyfriend. She didn’t want to get married, but her family told her that if she didn’t go through with the nuptials her boyfriend would be charged with statutory rape. She was in ninth grade at the time. Speaking to The Kansas City Star, Duncan, now 24 and a mother of four children, recalled being asked by the pastor if she took the young man standing beside her as her lawfully-wedded husband.

“I said, ‘I guess,’” Ashley remembered. Her sister, she added, rebuked her, telling her that she should have replied with the traditional response, “I do.”

In Missouri, it only takes one parent’s signature, and no judicial oversight whatsoever, for girls as young as 15 to be married off. In retrospect, Duncan says she believes that the legal age of marriage should be raised to 18, and that a judge’s presence should be required for those seeking to obtain a marriage license. If she’d had the chance to speak with a judge, she pointed out, she would have learned that in Missouri statutory rape only applies to anyone 21 and older having sex with someone under age 17. Had she known that, she probably wouldn’t have gone through with the marriage to a man whom she eventually separated from after a number of violent arguments. She might also have been able to stay in school, instead of dropping out during her freshman year of high school.

“They wanted me to get married,” she said. “I knew I shouldn’t have been making that decision that young. It was just something they told me that, like, I had to do or my child’s father would go to jail.”

According to an eye-opening report by The Kansas City Star, more than 1,000 15-year-old girls reported getting married between 1999 and 2015. Of those, more than 300 married men age 21 or older. Missouri police say that many more such marriages are believed to occur without being reported to authorities. And it’s all very legal.

Below watch a video that shows Duncan along with Brittany Koerselman, Christy Stracener and Sammy Knowles discuss their experiences of tying the knot at the tender age of 15.

 

Read the full story at The Kansas City Star.

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Viral sensation

A news reporter in China became an instant folk hero in China on Tuesday after her candid reaction was caught by news cameras and then spread like wildfire on social media. The reporter was seen reacting with open disgust on State TV while listening to a sycophantic fellow reporter’s fawning question to a Chinese official during the annual National People’s Congress.

Liang Xiangyi, a reporter for financial news site Yicai, could be seen staring down fellow reporter Zhang Huijun before dramatically rolling her eyes and even her head while Zhang’s nearly minute-long praise of the Chinese government — dressed in the guise of a question — dragged on. Video footage of the dramatic gesture swiftly went viral on Chinese social media, as the moment became the unquestioned highlight of the the intentionally dull and often scripted event — which is intended to lend the appearance of democracy to China’s autocratic one-party system, according to The New York Times. In particular, many equated Liang’s eye-roll as a larger reaction to the political situation in China, where presidential term-limits have been abolished in a move to further cement the power of President Xi Jinping.

As video and GIFs of Liang’s disgust began to spread, her name rapidly became the most-censored term on social media site Weibo. Liang’s own Weibo account gained a surge of followers, as supporters rushed to offer her messages of appreciation. Online, quick-thinking marketers are already monetizing Liang’s newfound popularity and selling T-shirts and cellphone cases that feature the reporter’s likeness.

Zhang, the reporter whose question prompted Liang’s epic eye-roll, is reportedly an employee of American Multimedia Television U.S.A., a Los Angeles-based broadcaster with ties to the Confucius Institute. The Confucius Institute, according to The New York Times, is used to promote Chinese culture and propaganda overseas.

Watch the viral moment below.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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Social construct

Two “one-in-a-million” biracial twin sisters — one with black skin, the other with white — grace the cover of National Geographic’s upcoming April issue as the magazine attempts to grapple with its problematic history with racism. Marcia and Millie Biggs, 11, appeared virtually identical when they were born in England to Amanda and Michael Biggs.

“The change happened with Millie first. She went darker and darker,” explained Michael, who inherited dark skin from his Jamaican ancestry. As time went by, Millie’s hair and skin became black, while her sister Marcia become pale and blonde. The twins, it turned out, were fraternal twins — non-identical twins that result from the mother releasing two eggs that were fertilized by two different sperm. In other words, the two sisters are as genetically similar to each other as any other pair of sisters — with Marcia inheriting more of her mother’s physical characteristics, and Millie more of her father’s. Personality-wise, however, Amanda says that the twins similarities to their parents are reversed.

“Marcia is a bit of a tomboy. She loves her gymnastics and prefers the color blue,” she said. “But Millie is the princess — she loves pink and all things bling. She’s a bit like her mother in that way.”

Marcia and Millie say they’ve been told they are lying when they explain to people that they are twins.

“Racism is where someone judges you by your color and not by your actual self,” said Millie. “I prefer to be different. You don’t always have to blend in the crowd because if you do you won’t get noticed. It’s better to be you.”

National Geographic’s profile on the twins comes as part of an April issue that has been devoted to race, featuring an editorial written by editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg that acknowledges that the magazine’s coverage had been implicitly and explicitly racist for decades. Goldberg, who is the first woman and first Jewish person to serve as National Geographic’s editor in chief, wrote that the editorial team at the magazine hired University of Virginia Professor John Edwin Mason, a specialist in African photography and history, to analyze the publication’s archives.

“What Mason found in short was that until the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers,” wrote Goldberg. “Meanwhile it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages — every type of cliché.”

She continued, “For decades our coverage was racist. To rise above our past we must acknowledge it.”

Below, watch a video produced by National Geographic about how these two twins and the experiences they talk about prove race is merely a social construct.

Read the full story at Yahoo News and USA Today.

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‘Make the noise’

When Bozoma Saint John was hired as Uber’s chief brand officer last June, the company was in the midst of a crisis. The beleaguered ride-sharing app had been drawing intense criticism for a number of misdeeds, chief among them fostering a culture that supported sexual harassment. Saint John has been tasked with turning the company’s image around, but while speaking at the 2018 SXSW festival, she challenged male employees to step up and help create a more inclusive work environment.

“I want white men to look around in their office and say, ‘Oh look, there’s a lot of white men here. Let’s change this,’” Saint John said, according to CNN. “Why do I — as the black woman — have to fix that? There’s 50 of you, there’s one of me. Ya’ll fix it … Everybody else needs to make the noise — I want white men to make the noise.”

Uber’s first diversity report, published last March, revealed that the company had no technical leaders who were black or Hispanic. Just 3.7 percent and 1.2 percent of its non-technical positions were held by black and Hispanic employees, respectively.

A former executive at Apple Music, Saint John knows that the culture at her new company is problematic. But she also noted that lack of diversity at Uber is reflective of a wider problem among Silicon Valley tech companies.

“The number of African Americans in Silicon Valley is dismal,” Saint John said. “It’s not up to one company — it’s up to the entire industry to make sure that we are moving the conversation forward. Sometimes those walls of competition need to come down so we can move the entire industry forward.”

Saint John also did not mince words when sharing her thoughs about the suggestion that the diversity problem in Silicon Valley can be attributed to a lack of female and minority candidates.

“That’s bullshit,” she said. But at Uber, she suggested the tide was beginning to turn, Business Insider reported. there’s a feeling of hopefulness where people feel empowered to create the story that they want to create in the world,” she said.

Earlier this year, Saint John sat down with CNN and talked about balancing her job as a corporate executive with being a mother, and why that’s led to her “feeling like a true hustler.” Watch that interview below.

Read the full story at CNN.

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Kindness

A woman recently commented on Jessica Chastain’s Instagram, criticizing the actress for her pro-choice stance. And in response, Chastain donated $2,000 to the woman’s fertility fund.

On International Women’s Day, Chastain posted a photo of herself wearing a T-shirt stamped with the phrase, “We Should All Be Feminists” — a reference to the famed essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Commenting on the image, one Karin H. Schulz wrote, “Yes feminist that believe in God and stand up for The Unborn. I would be for that kind of feminist.”

Rather than ignore Schulz’s comment, Chastain took the time to acknowledge her stance — and to empathize with her fertility struggles. Schulz’s Instagram account includes a link to her GoFundMe page, which explains that she and her husband, Jeremy, have been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for several years.

“My hormone levels and egg quality aren’t the best, due to my age,” Schulz writes. “We found out that we would need help to become pregnant. It was very disheartening to hear these results. I felt like I had failed Jeremy.”

The necessary treatments, Schulz goes on to say, are not covered by the couple’s insurance. “The idea of having us to go into debt to become pregnant made me so, so sad,” she writes.

Karin and Jeremy Schulz. (GoFundMe)

In response to Schulz’s comment on her photo, Chastain said, “Yes you can decide what is right for you. I am pro-choice and I believe that everyone has the right to make their own decision. I read about your journey to become a mother and it broke my heart. I hope that your dream will come true in 2018! Much love to you.”

Chastain also donated $2,000 to Schulz’s GoFundMe. “You’ll be wonderful parents who teach love by example,” she wrote in a comment. “Someday youll hold your baby. Dont give up ❤..”

As of Tuesday, Schulz’s goal of raising $5,000 had nearly been reached. She acknowledged Chastain’s act of kindness, along with the some of the others who have donated in a followup post on the GoFundMe page. “Thanks to Jessica, Rachel, Matt Liz and so many more. Thank you so very much!!” she wrote. In the comments section, several people who donated mentioned that they did so because they’d read a news story about Chastain having done so first.

Read the full story at People.

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Just kidding

On Monday, it seemed that the world might not be seeing any more of Cameron Diaz on the silver screen. The star of many a beloved film — from Gangs of New York to Shrek (and Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third) — had retired from her long career in acting at the age of 45, according to her close friend and fellow actress Selma Blair.

Blair told Metro News that she would have been interested in filming a sequel to The Sweetest Thing, a 2002 rom-com starring both Diaz and Blair. “But Cameron’s retired from acting,” Blair said. “She’s like ‘I’m done.’”

“I mean, she doesn’t need to make any more films,” Blair added. “She has a pretty great life, I don’t know what it would take to bring her back. She’s happy.”

Diaz has not appeared in a film since 2014, when she played Mrs. Hannigan in a remake of Annie, so the idea that she might’ve put her acting career behind her wasn’t so far-fetched. In fact, Vanity Fair, speculated that Diaz has shifted her focus to lifestyle content, given that she recently published two books on wellness.

But it turns out the talk of retirement was all a joke, as Blair cleared everything up with a post on Twitter. “BREAKING NEWS 🚨🚨🚨. Guys please, I was making a joke in an interview. CAMERON DIAZ is NOT retiring from ANYTHING. And for more breaking news: I am NOW retiring from being Cameron Diaz’s spokesperson.”

So there will be a retirement after all, it just won’t be Diaz and it won’t be from acting. Glad we’ve got that figured out now.

Read the full story at Vanity Fair.

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Let's make a deal?

President Trump, throughout his improbable presidential campaign, pitched himself to Americans as the ultimate dealmaker. Well, now, he has an intriguing offer on the table regarding his rumored extramarital affair with a porn actress, but it appears the president has no intentions of making a deal with her. Stephanie Clifford, the adult film actress who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, has offered to return the $130,000 she was paid as part of a non-disclosure agreement so she can discuss her purported affair with President Donald Trump years ago.

Clifford’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, said in a letter to Michael Cohen, Trump’s private lawyer, that Clifford “will pay $130,000 to President Trump by wire transfer, to an account designated by the president” by this Friday if the Trump camp is willing to accept the terms.

In January, The Wall Street journal reported that Cohen had arranged the payment with Clifford one month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that would prevent her from discussing an alleged affair with Trump. The president has not admitted any knowledge of the payment, and the White House has denied that he had a sexual encounter with Clifford.

In a lawsuit filed last week, Clifford said that the “hush agreement” was invalid because Trump had not signed it. According to the lawsuit, Clifford claims that she and Trump had a relationship between 2006 and 2007, when the president was newly married and his youngest child, Barron, was a baby.

The letter says that Clifford now hopes to return the payment so she can “speak openly and freely about her prior relationship with the president and the attempts to silence her and use and publish and text messages, photos and videos relating to the president that she may have in her possession, all without fear of retribution or legal liability.”

The letter also requests that in exchange for the money, neither Cohen nor Trump attempt to prevent 60 Minutes from broadcasting an interview with Clifford, which is reportedly scheduled to air on March 18. According to BuzzFeed News, lawyers associated with the president are considering filing an injunction to stop the interview from being aired.

Cohen has previously taken legal measures to keep Clifford from talking to the press. Last month, he secured a restraining order against Clifford in private arbitration, which prohibits her from sharing “confidential information” about her alleged relationship with Trump. It seems unlikely that Cohen or other attorneys associated with Trump will now accept Clifford’s offer to return the $130,000, but Avenatti has said that he believes “they need to stop the bleeding.”

“Our entire democracy is built around the notion of free speech, competing ideas, competing debate,” he added, “and this situation should be no different.”

Avenatti, who has been  appearing daily on practically every television news show that will have him on, showed up on Good Morning America Tuesday morning, after making the rounds Monday night on cable news, and vowed that if Cohen declines the offer on Trump’s behald, he and Daniels will not “go home.” The lawyer added that he believes no court in California or anywhere will enforce the agreement that Trump never signed. “I’m a pit bull, too,” Avenatti warned, referencing Cohen’s reputation, “and we’re not going away.”

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Complicated

In a flurry of unexpected news Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump fired beleaguered Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a tweet, and then nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace him. Trump then nominated Gina Haspel, the deputy CIA director, to succeed Pompeo. If Haspel, 61, is confirmed by the Senate, she would become the first woman to lead the intelligence agency since it was founded in 1947.

While on its face, the nomination of Haspel might seem like a forward-thinking move for a president who has seemed challenged, at best, to appoint many women to key roles in his administration, Haspel brings a fair amount of controversy with her.

As the New York Times reported last month when she was named deputy CIA director, Haspel has a bit of a dark past during the post 9/11 years. She’s a 30-plus-year veteran of the CIA, who has spent most of her career working undercover but, notably, she ran a CIA “black site” where torture tactics were deployed against terror suspects. In the immediate years following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, Haspel operated and oversaw a secret prison in Thailand codenamed the “Cat’s Eye,” according to The Washington Post, where officials detained suspects and often subjected them to extreme interrogations using tactics that are widely considered to be torture. Haspel, the Times reports, later took part in destroying video footage of the brutal interrogations, which included waterboarding.

VICE reports on the case of one terror suspect who endured torture at the Thailand black site in 2002, the details of which were made public when the Senate issued its torture report in 2014 and then last year, when a number of cables were declassified from the time period that described the methods CIA agents used.

Abu Zubaydah was brought to the black site run by Haspel in 2002. He’d been running a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan prior to being detained by the CIA. Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding 83 times over the course of a single month. He was also roughed up by agents who threw him into walls. According to one of the cables, “CIA Headquarters formally proposed that [Zubaydah] be kept in an all-white room that was lit 24 hours a day, that [Zubaydah] not be provided any amenities, that his sleep be disrupted, that loud noise be constantly fed into his cell, and that only a small number of people interact with him. CIA records indicate that these proposals were based on the idea that such conditions would lead [Zubaydah] to develop a sense of ‘learned helplessness.’” At some point during his stay at Haspel’s black site, Zubaydah lost one of his eyes.

After Trump’s announcement, Haspel said, “If confirmed, I look forward to providing President Trump the outstanding intelligence support he has grown to expect,” according to USA Today. Some Republicans welcomed her nomination, as The Washington Post pointed out. “I know Gina personally, and she has the right skill set, experience and judgment to lead one of our nation’s most critical agencies,” Richard Burr, a GOP senator from North Carolina and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, according to the Post. “I’m proud of her work and know that my committee will continue its positive relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency under her leadership. I look forward to supporting her nomination, ensuring its consideration without delay.”

Not everyone, of course, was happy with Haspel’s appointment, as former ACLU deputy legal director blasted Haspel, saying she is “quite literally a war criminal.”

But within the CIA, she is a respected figure, the Times noted, with even some Obama-era intelligence officials having shown support for her as recently as her appointment to deputy director. Even James Clapper, the director of national intelligence under President Obama and one of Trump’s fiercest critics, said he was “very pleased” with her appointment last month.

EDITORS’ NOTE: This story has been updated to remove references to reports that Haspel oversaw the waterboarding of the terror suspect Abu Zubaydah at Cat’s Eye. New reports have been filed indicating that the waterboarding occurred before Haspel assumed command of the detention center. For more on the clarification, click here.

Read the full story at The New York TimesVICE, and The Washington Post.

03.13.18

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