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May 25
Her eye on the news
‘Hope for justice’

As Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and sex abuse in a New York City courtroom on Friday, many of the 80-plus women who have accused him of various forms of sexual misconduct shared their joy and gratitude at finally seeing the disgraced movie mogul in shackles.

“To see him in cuffs on the way out, whether he smiled or not, that’s a very good feeling,” said actress Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein’s earliest and most outspoken accusers, in an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly.

“Predators eat people, and he ate a lot of my life and I want my life back. Since the news broke, even though his face is everywhere, I haven’t had a single nightmare for the first time,” she added, acknowledging that while she had also hoped to see this day, she had long ceased daring to believe it would actually come.

Asia Argento, an actress and director who faced widespread shaming and pushback in her home country of Italy after she dared to accuse Weinstein of rape, also commented on his arrest in a Twitter post.

“What took you so long, Harvey?” she asked in one tweet, accompanied by a video of Weinstein entering the courtroom.

“Today, Harvey Weinstein will take his first step on his inevitable descent to hell. We, the women, finally have real hope for justice,” she wrote in another.

Watch video of McGowan’s interview with Kelly below.

Read the full story at USA Today.

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Sounds right

If you’ve always wanted to produce a hit pop song, a new study might give you some valuable insight on what it takes. Mathematicians from U.C. Irvine have developed a computer algorithm that was able to determine which songs made the Top 100 Singles Chart with a success rate of 86 percent. Interestingly, the researchers noted, the characteristics that most clearly predicted a hit song were “happy, party-like, not relaxed … [and] sung by a female.”

Using crowd-sourced data from the MetaBrainz Foundation that classifies songs by genre and acoustic properties, the mathematicians used a machine learning method known as the “random forest” algorithm to analyze approximately 500,000 songs that were released in the U.K. between January 1985 and July 2015. The goal? To determine whether the algorithm could predict which songs made the Top 100 based solely on their acoustic properties.

“Successful songs,” the team found, “are happier, brighter, more party-like, more danceable and less sad than most songs.” Compared to unsuccessful songs, they also discovered, popular hits tended to have more women vocalists than male ones.

“We can see that, in general, successful songs are, for example, ‘happier,’ more ‘party-like,’ less ‘relaxed’ and more ‘female’ than most,” the researchers concluded. In other words, music industry titans such as Recording Academy president Neil Portnow who believe that so few women win awards because they need to “step up” should start finding new excuses. Women in the music industry, it appears, are more than punching above their weight.

So, if you want to write that hit pop song, get to work keeping all of the above in mind. Or you could just do what many pop stars do when they need a hit song and hire Diane Warren to do it for you.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.

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‘Impossible situation’

Comedian Rebecca Corry, who six months ago became one of several women to speak out about suffering sexual misconduct at the hands of Louis C.K., has penned an Op-Ed in order to “explain a few things about this impossible situation” she was put in.

Corry had been producing an acting a television pilot in 2005 when C.K. cornered her and asked whether he could masturbate in front of her, ruining what otherwise should have been an exciting moment in her career. But for 12 years, she said, she tried to get away from that incident. She didn’t want to be a “silence breaker,” above all she didn’t want to be labeled in the national media as a “victim.” But as she continued hearing comments from people in social situations attacking C.K.’s accusers — not to mention cruel victim-blaming remarks from some of the most powerful voices in comedy — she said she realized she “had no choice but to face the fact that I’d been forced into a lose-lose situation, and staying silent was not helping.”

In her work protecting victimized dogs, Corry noted, she tells people that “to ignore abuse is to condone it.” So she decided to stand up for herself — a decision that came at great personal cost. She faced public shame, death threats, and claims that she only spoke out to get “15 mins of fame.” Close friends were too afraid to corroborate her story, other friends simply ceased contact with her — even as they continued to proudly post pictures of themselves sporting “pussy hats and Time’s Up pins at the Women’s March” on social media, she wrote. And now, she added, she has to deal with people asking her whether she thinks C.K. will make a comeback — as if he was an underdog and victim rather than a “rich powerful man … [who] chose to behave grotesquely simply because he could.”

In the end, she concluded, telling “the truth won’t make a wrong right … and you may suffer further for telling it.” But for Corry, at least, it was worth it, because “the truth will set you free.”

Read Corry’s full Op-Ed at Vulture.

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Justice

A Georgia woman who was raped by an armed security guard on a picnic table outside her friend’s apartment complex when she was just 14 has been awarded $1 billion in compensatory damages by jurors in a civil lawsuit against the security company that employed her rapist. Hope Cheston, now 20, was attending a friend’s birthday party in Jonesboro when she was subjected to the brazen attack, which she said forever altered her.

“Knowing that just one encounter can change your life forever is terrifying,” said Cheston.

Her rapist, Brandon Lamar Zachary, 28, is now serving a 20-year prison sentence for statutory rape. A judge in a civil lawsuit against Crime Prevention Agency Inc., which employed Zachary, had also found that the company was liable for negligence. In a potentially precedent-setting move, jurors brought in to determine damages in the case ruled that the physical and emotional damages suffered by Cheston were nearly incalculable, awarding her $1 billion in damages. According to, her lawyers, the case marked the largest jury verdict ever awarded in the U.S. for a sexual assault case.

The judge can still reduce the value of the compensation, and the security company itself doesn’t have a billion dollars to pay out. Nonetheless, Cheston’s lawyer said, the result would have far-reaching consequences, even beyond Cheston’s own life.

“A jury, from now on, will know there is no ceiling on the damages that rape causes to a woman,” said lawyer, L. Chris Stewart. “They literally thought a billion dollars was the value of a 14-year-old being raped in public.”

As for Cheston, she is now a sophomore a Fort Valley State University, where she is majoring in social work and volunteers to help the homeless during the summer.

Watch video coverage of the story below.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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Crackdown

Saudi Arabia has freed three high-profile women’s rights activists that were among a group of at least 10 who were arrested by the conservative government last week, according to fellow activists and Amnesty International. It was unclear why Aisha al-Manea, Hassa al-Sheikh, and Madeha Alajroush were freed while others, such as Loujain al-Hathloul, remain in custody. Al-Manea, al-Sheik, and Alajroush have all protested against the country’s driving ban, which is set to end next month, since the 1990s. The three activists were reportedly not among those named as traitors consorting with “enemies overseas” by state media during last week’s crackdown. Other women’s rights advocates have expressed concern that the remaining detainees will likely stay in jail for months before even being charged with a crime.

While new Saudi crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has been hailed for helping end the women’s driving ban, he has faced criticism over his apparent manipulation of his aged father, King Salman, who he has allegedly prevented from meeting his wife, Princess Fahda bint Falah al Hathleen, for more than two years. According to Reuters, moves toward providing women with greater rights have also been “accompanied by a crackdown on dissent” in the Muslim kingdom. Activists and diplomats have said that the arrests may be a move to appease conservatives upset by the kingdom’s progressive trend, as well as a warning to activists to not question what rights the government is willing to allow them.

Read the full story at Reuters.

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05.25.18

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