Jul 09
Her eye on the news
Moving on

After several came forward with various accusations of sexual misconduct against Kevin Spacey last year, Netflix fired him from House of Cards even though he portrayed the show’s main character, Frank Underwood. At the same time, the streaming giant announced that his co-star, Robin Wright, who plays his wife, Claire Underwood, would become the show’s lead for its final season. But she hadn’t spoken publicly about the accusations against Spacey, even as new allegations were made last week, until Monday morning during an appearance on NBC’s Today show.

Wright sat down with Savannah Guthrie for an interview that was recorded prior to the latest allegations being made and talked about the aftermath the allegations had on her and on the set of the hit show.

“Is there anything in all these years of working with him that made you think something like this was possible?” Guthrie asked Wright.

“We were … co-workers, really. We weren’t … ahh … never socialized outside of work. [We had a] respectful, professional relationship. He was so great with me. He was never disrespectful to me. So, that’s my personal experience. That’s the only thing I feel that I have the right to talk about.”

She added that since the first allegation against Spacey surfaced, she’s had no contact with her former co-star. “I don’t even know how to reach him,” Wright said. “Kevin and I knew each other between ‘action’ and ‘cut,’ and in between setups where we would giggle. I didn’t know the man. I knew the incredible craftsman that he is.”

When asked about Netflix’s decision to fire Spacey from the show, she stopped short of saying it was the right call. “I don’t know how to comment on that,” she said. “But I think at that time the shock was so intense all over the nation, for many reasons, many stories, many people, I think that everybody felt that it was respectful to back off.”

As for the rest of the cast and crew, Wright said her colleagues were also blindsided by the allegations against Spacey.

“I think we were all surprised, of course, and ultimately saddened,” Wright said, adding that the cast and crew “forged ahead” for the final season, which is set to debut this fall. In addition to carrying the show onscreen, Wright got behind the camera to direct the series finale.

Near the end of the interview, Guthrie asked Wright if she’d ever experienced harassment in Hollywood. “Of course. Who hasn’t?” was Wright’s reply. “This is a bigger, broader issue, I think — which is seduction. I don’t care who you are. It’s about power, and once you overpower someone, that person then becomes vulnerable. And this last year, I think, has shined a light in a new way to allow us to start a new conversation. So we just need to shift the paradigm.”

Watch the full interview below.

Read the full story at Today.


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‘Balancing act’

We’ll see you at the polls, women seem to be saying this year. Democratic women, at least.

The gap between men and women prepared to vote in the midterm elections looks to be the largest ever, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. Among women, Democrats are leading the charge 58 percent to 33 percent. On the flip side, among men, Republicans are leading 50 percent to 42 percent. Should the average of polling hold, the midterm election would have the largest gender gap since the 1958 midterms, according to CNN.

These findings mimic the 2016 presidential election, which featured the largest gender gap on record at the time. Historically, women have almost always turned up at the polls more than men — but with such a wide gender gap, that fact might become even more crucial this year.

Over the past few decades, women have increasingly supported Democrats, so it’s difficult to quantify how much the additional support can be attributed to anti-Trump sentiments or whether it’s following the natural uptick of favor.

Still, it’s not hard to connect the dots. With a man in the White House who openly mocks the #MeToo movement (and that’s only his latest offense against women), it takes little leap of the imagination to wonder why women are poised to storm the polls.

“House Democrats are also doing considerably better than in 2014 when they won among women by 4 points, and Democrats this year are doing better than Clinton did in 2016 when she won women by 13 points,” writes CNN.

The general congressional ballot will be a close call during the midterms, with Democrats angling to win control of the House — and if they do, they could have women to thank.

Read the full story at CNN.


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Criminal case

Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was led into a New York City courtroom again on Monday, his hands cuffed behind his back, to face the latest sex crime charges filed by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Weinstein, 66, pleaded not guilty at the arraignment to additional charges of predatory sexual assault and criminal sexual act, stemming from an alleged 2006 incident with a third woman.

Weinstein was released on bail, but, during the arraignment, his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said he expects even more charges to be brought against his client. “We fight these battles one day at a time, and today we won this round,” Brafman declared, though it wasn’t clear what victory his team had pulled off. “Mr. Weinstein maintains that all of these allegations are false and he expects to be fully vindicated,” Brafman said.

Gloria Allred, the attorney representing the accuser in the case, told reporters outside the courthouse that her client, who has yet to publicly come forward, plans to testify if the case goes to trial.  Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Manhattan’s district attorney, has said Weinstein is charged with “some of the most serious sexual offenses” possible under state law.

Weinstein has faced allegations of various forms of sexual misconduct from more than 80 women. He has already pleaded not guilty on charges of rape and criminal sex acts and has been allowed to stay at home while wearing an electronic monitoring device, per his initial bail agreement. Weinstein is also facing criminal investigations by authorities in Los Angeles and London.

For more on the story, watch the video below.

Read the full story at The Associated Press


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‘Take a vow’

More women are choosing to devote themselves to God by taking lifelong vows of chastity, according to the Catholic Church.

The Vatican recently issued guidance on “consecrated virginity” to better direct bishops who had reported “rapidly” growing interest among women in congregations around the world. The pledge to the spiritual vocation involves women remaining celibate for their entire lives in order to devote themselves fully and become “mystical brides” of Christ.

What’s the difference between consecrated virginity and becoming a nun? Consecrated virgins don’t work within the church, and instead live in their own homes and work conventional jobs to financially support themselves while serving the church, according to The Independent.

The Vatican’s newly issued guidance states women must “follow Christ [and] embrace his chaste, poor and obedient way of life” and “dedicate themselves to prayer, penance, the works of mercy and the apostolate.” Consecrated virgins must be admitted by a diocesan bishop and are often counseled by priests prior to the ceremony.

The practice dates back to ancient Rome, but was usurped by communal aspects of spiritual devotion and religious communities including convents. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Vatican began bringing it back to public consciousness. “Since this form of consecrated life was reintroduced in the church, there has been a real revival of the Ordo virginum [Order of Virgins],” Archbishop Jose Rodríguez Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, told The Independent.

Awareness of the “misunderstood” lifestyle is growing, according to Judith Stegman, president of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins. “Clearly, as it becomes known more and more, there’s been a continual increase in women who are interested in the vocation, asking about it and becoming consecrated, especially as various bishops become more aware of it and encourage it in their dioceses,” she told The Independent.

There are thought to be up to 5,000 consecrated virgins globally, ranging across continents and cultural contexts. Last year three women participated in a consecration ceremony in Detroit. As one of those women told The Detroit Free Press, “It’s not a vocation you can just 1-2-3 get into,” said Theresa Jordan. “It takes a lot of formation, study and prayer.”

Read the full story at The Independent.


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The comeback of the American nun


Seventy-six years ago, Anne Frank’s family tried to immigrate to the U.S. to escape Nazi Germany, but “their efforts were thwarted by American bureaucracy, war and time,” wrote historians at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The new report comes after an in-depth research project into the paper trail left by the family of the 15-year-old diarist — and an exploration of how difficult approval was for immigration decades ago amid anti-refugee sentiments.

“I am forced to look out for emigration and as far as I can see USA is the only country we could go to,” Otto Frank wrote in English to a friend in the United States in 1941, according to The Associated Press.

Three years earlier, he had filed papers with the American consulate in Rotterdam, but those papers were destroyed during German bombardment in 1940. Another attempt in 1941 also wasn’t successful because all American consulates in Germany-occupied Europe has been shuttered by the Nazis.

With the application process lasting a few years — paperwork and affidavits required from friends or relatives in the U.S. we’re required along with family birth certificates and more — there was still no guarantee of immigration, given a strict review process and the fact that hundreds of thousands of people were trying to flee to the U.S. every year during World War II. Around 30,000 people were accepted.

Otto Frank also apparently filed a visa application to Cuba, which didn’t go through, and ultimately the family went into hiding for two years before being discovered in 1944 and deported to Auschwitz, where Anne and her sister died. Her father survived the concentration camp and later, of course, her diary was  published and told the story of one 15-year-old girl who spoke for an entire generation.

Read the full story The Associated Press and read the full research report here.


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Breast isn’t best, according to Trump administration officials who attended the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly, where they attempted to torpedo a resolution designed to encourage breastfeeding, The New York Times reports.

The resolution, introduced by Ecuador in May at the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding”—which has long been the W.H.O.’s policy. Objecting to that language, U.S. officials indicated possible repercussions if the resolution wasn’t dropped and engaged in a tit-for-tat measure with Ecuador. According to government officials, the country would be the recipient of “punishing trade measures” and the U.S. could withdraw military aid in the tumultuous northern region.

“We were astonished, appalled and also saddened,” Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, told the New York Times. “What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health,” she said.

However, members of the Trump administration have pushed back against the report. According to CNN, Health and Human Services spokesperson Caitlin Oakley issued a statement in response to the report touting American officials’ longtime support of breastfeeding. “The issues being debated were not about whether one supports breastfeeding,” Oakley said. “The United States was fighting to protect women’s abilities to make the best choices for the nutrition of their babies. Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies.”

Why might officials object to language promoting mother’s milk? Well, consider infant formula manufacturers—no surprise that lobbyists also attended the assembly — and the $70 billion baby food industry. Meanwhile, forty years of research has shown that antibodies in breast milk can help protect newborns, and a 2016 study showed that “universal breastfeeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year across the globe and yield $300 billion in savings.”

Leading the charge to modify the resolution was the Department of Health and Human Services, and a spokesman claimed the tweaks were sought because “the resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children.” The statement further read: “We recognize not all women are able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.”

Public health officials and foreign diplomats were said to be “stunned” over U.S. aversion to the policy.

Of course, the administration didn’t limit flexing its muscle over breast-feeding. At the Geneva meeting, officials also successfully lobbied against language praising soda taxes in a document advising countries with rising obesity rates.

Ironically, after Ecuador dropped the resolution, it was reintroduced and successfully passed. Who brought it back to the table? Russia. “We’re not trying to be a hero here, but we feel that it is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important for the rest of the world,” an unidentified delegate told the Times. You don’t say.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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An Iranian woman who was arrested earlier this year for protesting the country’s compulsory hijab policy for women was arrested and slapped with a two-year prison sentence and 18 years of probation. Meanwhile, a young woman with a huge following on social media was arrested and released on bail over videos posted on Instagram showing her dancing. The arrests have human rights advocates denouncing the Iranian government for it’s latest morality crackdown.

Shaparak Shajarizadeh, who spent time in Shahr-e Rey prison and was kept in solitary confinement there earlier this year, was arrested again on May 8 for not wearing a headscarf in public. Women in Iran have been mandated to wear a hijab while in public since 1979, but in recent years a growing movement has sought to fight back against the compulsory head scarf.

One of the leading proponents of the compulsory hijab protest effort is Iranian exile Masih Alinejad, the founder of My Stealthy Freedom. She launched a movement known as #WhiteWednesdays, in which men and women post photos on social media wearing or carrying white headscarves in protest of the mandatory hijab rule. Shajarizadeh was an active #WhiteWednesdays participant. She was reportedly taken into custody along with her 9-year-old son in the city of Kashan, about 150 miles south of the capital, Tehran. Authorities reportedly released the boy after a few hours, but she has been sentenced to two years in prison, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran and given an 18-year suspended sentence, or essentially probation.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, Shajarizadeh’s lawyer, spoke with the Center for Human Rights in Iran and said. “I don’t know if she removed her hijab or not but my question is: How come women get immediately arrested for not observing the hijab or having an inappropriate hijab, or wearing tight or short dresses, or wearing lipstick, but in cases dealing with theft and murder, suspects never get arrested so fast?” Sotoudeh said. “Why should women be arrested like this every day?” she wondered. “This is a manifestation of violence against women.”

In a post on Twitter, Alinejad said she spoke with Shaparak and that the activist “said millions of women are against compulsory hijab. Iran is a bigger prison for all of us.” Shaparak has been freed on bail, but Alinejad, in an email to Women in the World, criticized the sentence against Shaparak as “inhuman and backward.”

Meanwhile, a teenager with a devoted social media following was arrested for posting videos of herself dancing on Instagram. Maedeh Hojabri, 19, often posts videos on Instagram in which she can be seen dancing to Western music — and not wearing a hijab. According to The Guardian, she was just one of several popular social media personalities who were arrested in the sweep. The identities of the others have yet to be revealed.

Hojabri, The Guardian reported, was shown on state television issuing a forced apology.

Alinejad told Women in the World she spoke briefly to Hojabri and said that the teen has been released on bail. “I am 19 years and I’m free on bail because I promised that I am not going to publish videos of my dancing performance on Instagram,” Alinjead said Hojabri told her.

But her arrest has sparked outrage and resulted in many people uploading videos of themselves, like the one below, to social media showing them dancing in solidarity with Hojabri.


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