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Apr 23
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NXIVM

Smallville actress Allison Mack was arrested Friday on charges of sex trafficking for allegedly recruiting sex slaves to serve Keith Raniere, the leader of NXIVM, a so-called “self-help group” targeted at women. Mack had previously been accused of enlisting 25 women into a group within NXIVM called “dominus obsequious sororium” — Latin for “master over the slave women.” Mack appeared in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday looking disheveled, according to The New York Post. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

One of the women Mack allegedly recruited, Dr. Danielle Roberts, has been accused of branding women with Raniere’s initials as part of an initiation into the secretive slave cult. Like Raniere — who was recently arrested in a luxury gated community in Mexico where he’d been hiding with several women — Mack has been charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor.

Raniere, who is known to his followers as “the Vanguard” kept “a rotating group of 15 to 20 women” who were “not permitted to have sexual relationships with anyone but Raniere or to discuss with others their relationship with Raniere,” according to the criminal complaint against him. The women were also allegedly coerced into sex through brainwashing and blackmail — according to former NXIVM publicist Frank Parlato, women who entered the DOS cult were required to provide “collateral” in the form of nude pictures and confessions to crimes to assure Raniere of their loyalty.

Parlato has previously described Mack as “both a victim and a perpetrator.”

“She is a victim because she has been brainwashed by Raniere and she is his ‘slave’. So she has to run 64 kilometers a week and keep a strict 500 to 800 calorie a day diet. But she has also recruited many women to this cult,” said Parlato. “One of the things that is a terrible concept to Allison is that she is ordered to find Raniere bed partners and she is conflicted because she really wants to be with him.”

Read the full story at Jezebel.

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Hard life

Sitara Wafadar, 18, has disguised herself as a boy for more than a decade so that she can work and perform other male-only duties for her impoverished Afghan family. In Afghanistan’s patriarchal society, AFP reports, a cross-dressing custom known as “bacha poshi” allows for daughters to dress as men and, in so doing, essentially function as sons. Wafadar, who has five sisters and no brothers, says she has always wanted to grow her hair long and go to school. But her family’s debt to a local factory owner — incurred in order to pay for the medical expenses of her diabetic mother — means that both she and her father have to work there six days a week as bonded laborers. Each day, Wafadar makes 500 bricks — and receives just over $2 in return.

Like her four older sisters, Wafadar started making bricks at the factory at the age of 8. But unlike her sisters, who are now married, she has gone on working at the factory — dressing as a man in order to do so. For the sake of her father, she adds, she also poses as the family’s eldest son in public, appearing at events such as funerals that girls are normally barred from attending.

“I never think I am a girl,” she told AFP. “My father always says ‘Sitara is like my eldest son.’”

Normally, bacha poshi stop dressing as boys after reaching puberty. But in order to protect herself from rape or kidnapping at the factory, Wafadar says, she has “no choice” but to continue concealing her gender. As the days pass, however, she can’t help but imagine what her life would have been like if her parents had managed to have conceived a son.

“When I put on boys’ clothes I wish I had a brother,” she admitted. “Then my dreams would have been fulfilled.”

Watch video of Wafadar below.

Read the full story at Yahoo News.

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‘People gasped’

Gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney says she told a top USA Gymnastics coach about being sexually assaulted by physician Larry Nassar in 2011 — and that her coach responded only with silence. Maroney, who was one of almost 200 women and girls to testify that she was molested by Nassar under the guise of treatment, told NBC’s Dateline that she was abused hundreds of times by Nassar, beginning when she was just 13 years old. But it wasn’t until a horrifying incident at the 2011 world championships in Tokyo, she said, that she was first able to acknowledge to herself that she was being abused.

“I was bawling, naked, on a bed, him on top of me, and I thought I was going to die.” Maroney recalled. “I was being abused. I remember waking up the next day and wanting to tell someone.”

So during a car ride with the rest of her teammates and then-Team USA coach John Geddert, a longtime friend of Nassar’s, she summoned the courage to speak up.

“I even said out loud that last night, Larry was fingering me,” said Maroney. “People gasped.”

“I can’t even believe that I said that out loud in a car like that,” she added. “But I must have been so desperate at the time.”

Three of Maroney’s team USA teammates corroborated Maroney’s account. Aly Raisman, who won gold alongside Maroney in the 2012 Olympics, said that “Geddert was in the car and just said nothing.” After the rest of that trip passed in silence, Maroney said, she sank deeper into depression and decided to never speak up about what was happening to her again.

Maroney, now 22, has sued USA Gymnastics for allegedly conspiring to cover up Nassar’s abuse. She also told NBC that she considered it unlikely that Martha and Bela Karolyi, the longtime gymnastics coaches who ran the elite training camp where Maroney was first abused by Nassar, hadn’t been aware of the doctor’s behavior. The Karolyis have denied any knowledge of his actions. Geddert has not responded to requests for comment.

Watch video of Maroney’s interview with NBC below.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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A thousand words

Melania Trump appeared in Houston at the funeral for former first lady Barbara Bush over the weekend. She traveled to the memorial service without President Donald Trump, who stayed behind at his resort in Mar-a-Lago and spent the weekend firing off angry tweets. Photos that emerged from the occasion depicted a Melania Trump at ease alongside the folks who occupied the White House before she and her husband did.

Was she relieved to be far away, physically and mentally, from the never-ending tweetstorm that is her husband? That’s certainly what many social media users took away from the images that emerged from inside St. Martin’s Episcopal Church.

Exhibit A was a screen shot of a moment caught by TV news cameras showing Melania Trump seated alongside the Obamas in the church’s front row. The former president is seen leaning toward Melania and saying something that elicited a laugh and a smile from the first lady. Video of the brief exchange can be seen here.

Many on Twitter pointed out how, despite all of the cruel attacks that have come from Donald Trump dating back to long before he even ran for president, Obama was able to be gracious and kind toward Melania. Others noted that they hadn’t seen Melania smile like that while next to her husband in a long time — if ever. Some contrasted the photo of Melania smiling alongside Obama with photos showing dreadful looks on her face at times she was photographed while next to her husband.

Exhibit B was a group photo shot by Paul Morse, the official photographer of George H.W. Bush’s office, that brought together four U.S. presidents and their wives. Melania is seen in that image standing shoulder to shoulder with former first lady Michelle Obama, an easy warm grin on her face. Aside from the fact that the Bushes, Clintons, Obamas and Melania were all able to leave politics aside for the historic photo op, many saw a Melania Trump who was relaxed and at ease — a contrast to how she’s often perceived when she’s photographed in Washington.

Read the full story at The Huffington Post.

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‘It’s not unusual’

Feminist icon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shared her #MeToo moment in a recent interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, recalling how she was groped at the age of 17 in Lagos, Nigeria, after meeting with a man who offered to help her with her first book of poetry.

“I went to this man’s office. He was very nice, very helpful. I was sitting across his desk and he said he was so impressed because young people were not reading and I had written this book at 17. And then he got up and came around and very casually slipped his hand inside under my shirt, under my bra, and squeezed my breast,” Adichie told Amanpour. “Nothing had prepared me for it. Nothing in his behavior had suggested he was going to do anything like that.”

Asked whether the experience had helped shaped her views on feminism, Adichie explained that she had actually begun developing her feminist ideology long before then.

“As a child I was very much aware that the world did not treat women and men the same way,” she said. “I became a feminist because I grew up in Nigeria and observed the world. I saw what felt to me like an injustice that made no sense. Why were women judged more harshly? Why were all the positions of real power occupied by men? Why were the cultural practices that had prestige only for men? It didn’t seem to make any sense.”

As to why she had decided to speak out now, Adichie said that she wanted to continue the dialogue started by the #MeToo movement, and help people in general to better understand and empathize with the experiences of women.

“It happens to most women,” said Adichie of facing harassment. “It’s not unusual. I wanted to talk about why we don’t talk about it. The social conditioning that women go through that makes them reluctant to talk about these experiences. Somebody will say, ‘Why are you talking about it now? Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you push him or slap him?’ Our socialization teaches us to be nice and kind even to people who hurt us.”

Adichie, whose famous book We Should All Be Feminists has resonated across the world and inspired public figures as diverse as Daily Show host Trevor Noah and Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, appeared at the 2017 Women in the World Summit where she spoke about the importance of women learning to overcome social conditioning and to reject the “terrible dangerous cultural mindset that says to women: you need to be liked.”

Watch Adichie’s full interview with Amanpour below.

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04.23.18

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