Nov 05
Her eye on the news

When Jessica Allen, already a mother of two, agreed to serve as a surrogate for $30,000 and the chance to help another family have a child, she could never have anticipated the legal, financial, and emotional hell she’d soon be sucked into. After signing up as a surrogate with Omega Family Global, Allen underwent in vitro fertilization and was soon pregnant with the baby of a Chinese couple referred to under the pseudonym, the ‘Lius.’

Six weeks later, however, doctors abruptly spotted a second baby in her scans. The medical staff provided by the surrogacy agency, she told The New York Post, implied to her that the “transferred embryo had split in two and the twins were identical.” But when she gave birth in December, she noted that “one was lighter than the other” and that “their faces were not identical.” In fact, she would later discover, one of the baby’s had DNA corresponding to her own and her husband’s — somehow, in an extremely rare scenario known as superfetation, they had conceived the child after Allen was already pregnant with the Lius’ baby. According to ABC News, there are only about 10 reported cases of superfetation in medical literature.

But when Allen tried to get her baby back from the Lius, Omega Family Global told them that the Lius and the surrogacy agency would require $22,000 and $7,000 in compensation respectively before the agency would return the child. When Allen told the agency she couldn’t afford such costs to retrieve her own flesh and blood, she said the agency threatened to adopt the baby out to recoup the money they supposedly owed.

“The main fact is, our child was kidnapped and held for ransom,” Allen’s husband, Jasper, told The Washington Post.

The Allens were forced to hire an attorney before the agency would agree to return their child. On February 5, she was finally reunited with her third child, Malachi, who is now 10 months old. But even now, as the Allens explained to The Washington Post, legal problems, such as the absence of Malachi’s birth certificate and Social Security card, are “far from being resolved.”

Watch an interview with Allen below.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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On a mission

Reese Witherspoon, 41, is on a mission to create opportunities for women in Hollywood — both onscreen and off. The top earning actress, producer, fashion designer, and mother of three has already made an impact on the movie scene — Pacific Standard, the production company she founded, shook the industry with the success of Oscar-nominated movies Wild and Gone Girl, as well as Emmy-winning TV series Big Little Lies. All three projects star women, and were optioned by Witherspoon herself from books she read. And according to Witherspoon, who founded multimedia company Hello Sunshine last year, this is just the beginning.

A 2016 study by the University of Southern California has found that women only make up 28.7 percent of speaking roles in movies, and, as Witherspoon reveals in an essay for Glamour, she’s been told by studio heads, “‘We don’t want to make biopics about women,’ or more simply, ‘We’re not interested in female-driven material.’” By taking that approach, Witherspoon notes, producers are missing out on a big moneymaking opportunity — 52 percent of moviegoers are women, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. After the runaway success of Wild and Gone Girl, which together brought in $422 million, according to Forbes, Witherspoon is upping the ante.

“I started a production company five years ago to create more roles for women onscreen and behind the scenes,” Witherspoon says. “Today I have something like 23 projects in the works driven by great female characters of different ages and races.”

Among those projects is a TV series starring Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, in a highly anticipated return to TV for the famous Friends actress. Another project set to hit theaters this March is director Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, which is based on Madeleine L’Engle’s critically acclaimed science fantasy novel. A Wrinkle in Time will star Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, and Witherspoon herself — and will also mark the first time an African-American woman has directed a film with a budget in excess of $100 million.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal and CNBC.


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One current and three former lawmakers have responded to U.S Representative Jackie Speier’s call to speak out about sexual assault in congress, telling The Associated Press that they were sexually harassed by their fellow congressman.

“This is about power,” said former California Senator Barbara Boxer, recalling an incident in which she was sexually harassed in front of a congressional committee in the 1980s. She said a male colleague told a committee she was part of that he wanted to associate himself not only with her remarks, but also “with the gentle lady” herself. Her fellow members of Congress laughed, Boxer recalled, and the committee chairman seconded the man’s opinion.

“That was an example of the way I think we were thought of, a lot of us,” she said. “It’s hostile and embarrasses, and therefore could take away a person’s power.”

Former Republican Representative Mary Bono, who served in the House for 15 years, revealed that she had endured increasingly sexual comments from a fellow lawmaker, culminating in the congressman telling her on the House floor that he’d been fantasizing about her in the shower. Representative Linda Sanchez also recalled being repeatedly propositioned by a more senior member of Congress shortly after she was first elected. Another congressman, she said, touched her inappropriately on the House floor. All the congresswomen who spoke to The Associated Press declined to name their harassers — according to Sanchez, doing so was unlikely to “be helpful.”

“The problem is, as a member, there’s no H.R. department you can go to, there’s nobody you can turn to,” she explained. “Ultimately they’re employed by their constituents.”

Read the full story at The Associated Press.


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Say what?

First daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump traveled to Japan ahead of the president’s visit and delivered a speech Friday in Tokyo in which she called for women to receive better treatment in the workplace. But her remarks, which touched on the problem of sexual harassment, raised eyebrows given the allegations that have swirled around her father, particularly since a little more than a year ago a leaked hot mic tape from Access Hollywood provided audio of the then-candidate’s infamous “grab them by the pussy” boast.

“All too often, our workplace culture fails to treat women with appropriate respect,” Ivanka Trump said in the speech at the World Assembly of Women conference. “This takes many forms, including harassment, which can never be tolerated,” she continued. She also added that more efforts need to be spent bringing equality to “traditionally male-dominated sectors of our economy.”

Observers on social media, however, were quick to point out that the first daughter conveniently made no mention of the sexual harassment claims that have been leveled at her father, and which have garnered new interest and legal action in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Many suggested that the first daughter should also deliver the speech to an audience of one: her father.

Meanwhile, Japan’s government rolled out an unprecedented security detail to protect Ivanka Trump during her visit. A special all-female police squad was assembled for the first time ever there to guard her — and it’s no surprise Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is taking every precaution. As The Washington Post notes, many people in Japan are fascinated with Ivanka Trump and consider her to be “the perfect woman.” Lully Miura, a political scientist at the University of Tokyo, told the Post that “Many people think she’s like a princess. She’s well educated, beautiful, sophisticated and rich. And it’s very surprising to Japanese women that she can also talk about things that are important to society.” It’s unclear whether the glaring omission from her speech on Friday shattered the pristine perception she enjoys there.

Read the full story at the BBC.


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Two brothers, ages 38 and 44, have been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of raping and impregnating their 10-year-old niece in Chandigarh, India. The girl, who was refused an abortion by India’s supreme court, gave birth to a baby girl by caesarean-section in August. The two men had reportedly taken turns raping the girl, who was the daughter of their cousin.

A lawyer for the family of the victim, Alakh Alok Srivastava, said that they would have preferred the men receive the death penalty.

“The father was of the view that this was the worst kind of crime that can be committed with a small child and the rapists must be hanged,” said Srivastava.

The girl has reportedly been kept in the dark about her pregnancy, and was instead told that she had a stone in her stomach that needed to be removed. Her child, the parents have said, was given up for adoption.

Read the full story at CNN.


DNA tests implicate 2nd uncle in rape of girl, 10, who gave birth after being refused abortion

10-year-old victim of incest gives birth to daughter after being denied abortion

Court rules girl, 10, who was allegedly raped and impregnated by her uncle, must carry fetus to term