Apr 21
Her eye on the news
‘Not ever’

At a dinner for an LGBTQ organization this Thursday, Hillary Clinton did not mince words when it came to the Trump administration’s handling of LGBTQ issues. “I think we have to face the fact that we may not ever be able to count on this administration to lead on LGBT issues,” the former Democratic presidential nominee said, warning that any progress made on these issues might not be “as secure as we once expected.” Clinton specifically pointed to Trump’s appointments of outspoken anti-LGBTQ people in his administration. In her speech, Clinton also discussed the “terrifying accounts” of alleged abuse of gay men in Chechnya, asking the U.S. government to “demand an end to the persecution of innocent people across the world.”

Earlier this month, Clinton appeared at the 8th Annual Women in the World New York Summit, where she sat down with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for her first interview since the 2016 presidential election. Responding to a question about how she had been coping with the election loss, Clinton said, “As a person, I’m OK. As an American, I’m pretty worried.” If you missed the discussion, which went on for nearly 50 minutes and covered an array of topics, watch highlights and the full interview below.

Read the full story at The Huffington Post.


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The British government claims there is no need to change legislation to protect employees from sexist dress codes, in a move that Nicola Thorp, a British woman sent home from work last year after refusing to wear heels, called a “cop-out.” She was hired as a temporary receptionist for accounting firm PwC but sent home on her first day for wearing flats, in an incident that caught national media attention and prompted a petition signed by 152,000 people asking to outlaw sexist dress codes. The women and equalities select committee in the British Parliament held an inquiry on workplace dress codes following the petition, but eventually argued that existing gender discrimination laws already ban sexist dress codes. While the government conceded that this committee found practices “in some industries which appear sexist, unacceptable and potentially unlawful,” it argued these were already covered under the Equality Act 2010, and employees should address complaints with their employers or a tribunal.  Nevertheless, the government said it would publish additional guidance on the issue this summer, and urged companies to reconsider their dress codes. “It’s a shame they won’t change legislation.” Thorp told the Press Association. “It shouldn’t be down to people like myself … I do think it is a little bit of a cop-out.” She added, “Unfortunately, because of intrinsic sexism and the way in which business works in the U.K., when employers are allowed the freedom to decide what is fair and unfair it tends to be women that lose out.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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In the wake of Bill O’Reilly’s ouster from Fox News on Wednesday after the surfacing of disturbing sexual harassment claims, the departed cable news star issued a statement saying that he had to leave the network “due to completely unfounded claims.” Samantha Bee, long the topic of O’Reilly’s criticism herself, wasn’t willing to let the former host of The O’Reilly Factor, a show he nicknamed the “no-spin zone,” get away with this latest reinterpretation of the facts.

In a post made to Twitter, Bee shared a copy of O’Reilly’s statement marked in red pen to highlight areas where Bee and O’Reilly differed over the interpretation of events. O’Reilly’s claim that he “informed … millions of Americans” is edited so that it says he “lied to … millions of dads.” His statement asserting that it was “tremendously disheartening that we must part ways due to unfounded claims” is amended so that it reads, “It is tremendously disheartening to finally get in trouble for being a sexual predator.” And O’Reilly’s argument that being let go for sexual harassment is just “the unfortunate reality that many of us in the public eye must live with today” is put in perspective with the caveat that living in the public eye is “almost as unfortunate as being sexually harassed.”

In spite of the allegations made against O’Reilly, the network will still reportedly pay him $25 million as a part of his settlement package.

Read the full story at The Huffington Post.


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Say what?

A lawyer in a Tennessee rape case has defended his wealthy client from charges that he raped, choked, and ultimately hospitalized a woman by arguing that the victim shouldn’t be trusted because she is a woman.

“People can be very good at lying,” said defense lawyer Steve Farese during closing arguments of the case on Thursday. “Women can be especially good at it because they’re the weaker sex and we … and we want to protect them and not have anybody take advantage of them — at least I do.”

Later in his comments, Farese appeared to justify his claim by suggesting “that’s what the book says.”

Farese is part of a legal team hired to defend Memphis-area businessman Mark Giannini, who stands accused of raping three women since 2002. The woman in the present case said that she had come to Giannini’s mansion for a job interview, but that the businessman had instead raped and choked her, and that the next thing she remembered was waking up in a hospital. According to reports, much of the testimony was too horrific and graphic to be published by mainstream news outlets.

The defense team has argued that the sex was consensual and sought to undermine the victim’s credibility in the case. At one point in his closing argument, Farese also claimed that the woman’s shirt had been excluded from evidence by the prosecution because it had been a “sexy halter top.”

Deborah Clubb, executive director of the Memphis Area Women’s Council, criticized Farese’s reasoning as “despicable” and lacking even “the first bit of sense.”

“What we wear, where we are, whether we are drunk, is not the reason for rape,” Clubb explained. “Rape happens because men rape … And it’s wrong. It’s a crime.”

Read the full story at The Commercial Appeal.


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Free at last

An Egyptian-American woman was freed from prison after three years this week, ending a detention that had long been criticized by human rights groups. Aya Hijazi, 30, and her husband were arrested in 2014 when the charity they worked for, which helps street children in Egypt, was raided by authorities, according to CNN. Hijazi was hit with child abuse and human trafficking charges, which human rights groups lambasted as bogus. She was held in prison for 33 months without a trial — nine months longer than the law in Egypt allows for a person to be held without being sent to trial. The arrest came amid Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cracking down on those who disagree with his policies. On Sunday, Hijazi finally had her day in court and was acquitted for her charges.

On Friday, Hijazi, a dual citizen, returned to the U.S. and was greeted at the White House by President Donald Trump. The stage was set for Hijazi’s release last month when al-Sisi paid a visit to the White House and the president reportedly broached the topic of her release. According to White House press secretary Sean Spice, the Trump administration quietly negotiated her release with the al-Sisi administration.

The two met in in front of the cameras on Friday in the Oval Office and chatted, but Trump declined to take questions, saying only, “We are very happy to have Aya Hijazi back home, and it’s a great honor to have her in the Oval Office with her brother and thank you very much,” as Hijazi sat next to him smiling. Watch a clip of the meeting below.

Read the full story at NBC News and CNN.


Health of British aid worker imprisoned in Iran said to be in serious decline


A Tennessee teacher who kidnapped his 15-year-old student and escaped across state lines was caught deep in the mountains of northern California on Thursday after more than a month on the run. The pair had disappeared from their small town of Culleoka, Tennessee, on March 13, after Tad Cummins, 50, was spotted by a student kissing his own student, Elizabeth Thomas, in a classroom.

“I’m glad this is over,” said Cummins after his arrest, according to Siskiyou County sheriff Sgt. Mike Gilley.

The trail appeared to have gone cold in the search of Cummins, when the caretaker of a remote cabin in Cecilville called in to report a suspicious older man who had arrived at the cabin with his much younger “wife.” According to the caretaker, Thomas would not speak out loud to him, but rather whisper words into Cummins’ ear for him to repeat back. The caretaker grew concerned when he saw that the couple’s car had no license plates, and that the young “wife” would not leave the vehicle even after Cummins got out.

After consulting with authorities, the caretaker lured Cummins away from Thomas by asking him to come help build a rock wall on the property. Cummins came along willingly, and was detained while exiting the cabin.

Gilley said that Thomas’ condition in the wake of the arrest would shift rapidly between “stoic” and “emotional.”

“It was a very traumatic experience for her. Her mood was very alternating,” he said. “The two obviously have a relationship … her response to us and to law enforcement escalated up and down.”

Cummins’ estranged wife, Jill Cummins, said that she was “very emotional” to hear the news, and that she was “excited that they were found and nobody has hurt.” Jill has filed for divorce, and said she had not spoken to Tad.

After the arrest, Cummins was charged with transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of criminal sexual intercourse — if convicted, Cummins would face a minimum sentence of 10 years. Under state law, however, children older than 12 may decide to leave their families so long as their removal isn’t “accomplished by force, threat, or fraud.” Court documents obtained by CNN show investigators discovered evidence that Cummins had plotted for the two to have sexual encounters. But in order to prove kidnapping charges, prosecutors will to have to show that Thomas left with Cummins against her will.

Read the full story at CNN.


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Election 2017

Marine Le Pen, the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front in 1972 alongside former SS officers and other collaborators of the pro-Hitler Vichy government of World War II, is running for the French presidency in 2017 on a platform that critics contend is based mostly on restricting immigration. In an attempt to soften the image of her party, which is arguably best known for anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, and fascist tendencies, critics, according to a report by BuzzFeed, say that Le Pen has now begun trying to emphasize her womanhood in interviews and promotional materials — and what’s more, they add, the tactic appears as though it may be working.

After the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, Le Pen wrote a column stating that she wanted to address the country not only “as a political leader, but also as a woman.”

“It is as a free French woman, who has been able to enjoy, her whole life, the very precious freedoms fought for long and hard by our mothers and grandmothers, that I want to warn about a new form of social, human and moral regression imposed on us by the migrant crisis,” she wrote. “I fear that the migratory crisis signals the beginning of the end of women’s rights.”

Despite Le Pen’s professed desire to defend “women’s rights,” only one of the 144 “commitments” made by her party’s platform promise to do anything of the sort — a pledge to “defend women’s rights against Islamism, which would take back women’s fundamental freedoms.”

According to Clair Serre-Combe, a spokesperson for Osez le Féminisme, a national feminist network, Le Pen had embraced the notion, but not the reality of feminism, in an effort to legitimize her anti-immigration stance.

“You can clearly see that her feminism — although it really hurts me to use this word on her behalf — her feminism is deeply racist,” said Serre-Combe. “She speaks of sexual violence only when the aggressors are foreigners.”

France, a fiercely secular country, has found itself torn over Muslim traditions such as the hijab — a point of contention that Le Pen has eagerly exploited. After an attack on a Bastille Day parade in July, several French towns banned women on the beach from wearing “burkinis,” full-body swimsuits designed for Muslim women, until the laws were repealed by France’s high court in August. In one case, a ticket issued to a Muslim woman said that she had been fined for not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.”

According to Marie-Pierre Badré, a member of the right-wing Republican party who serves as president of the French Center for Men’s and Women’s Equality at Centre Hubertine Auclert in Paris, Le Pen’s decision to embrace her femininity might be winning her more voters than left-wingers would expect.

“I think most women won’t say they’re going to vote for her. They keep it a secret. It’s not seen as feminist, not seen as an expression of gender equity, so women don’t say that they’re going to do it,” said Badré. “It’s exactly like how you got Donald Trump. Exactly.”

Read the full story at Buzzfeed.


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