Nov 07
Her eye on the news

Ed Westwick, an actor who rose to prominence on the popular show Gossip Girl, went on the defensive Tuesday after actress Kristina Cohen accused him of having raped her three years ago. Westwick, who played Chuck Bass on the hit CW series and is currently starring on BBC’s White Gold, posted a message on Twitter, saying, “I do not know this woman. I have never forced myself in any manner, on any woman. I certainly have never committed rape.” Still, the LAPD confirmed on Tuesday that detectives are investigating the allegations, BuzzFeed news reported.

Westwick, 30, was responding to a Facebook post from a day earlier by actress Kristina Cohen. In her post, Cohen alleged that Westwick raped her three years ago when she visited his home along with an unidentified person she referred to only as “the producer.” Cohen, 27, said that the month since the initial Weinstein allegations surfaced has been difficult for her and that the wave of stories women have been sharing has been “both triggering and emotionally exhausting.” She’s grappled with whether or not to share her story, she writes in the post. “I’ve gone back and forth over and over again, unsure if I should speak up. If I could speak.”

She then detailed her accusations, saying that she’d been brought to Westwick’s home with “the producer,” whom she’d been dating at the time. Immediately, Cohen said, Westwick made things uncomfortable by declaring that “we should all fuck.” After she bristled at the unexpected suggestion, she said she lied down on a bed in a guest room while “the producer” tried to smooth things over with Westwick.

Kristina Cohen. (Facebook)

She writes that she fell asleep and then “I was woken up abruptly by Ed on top of me, his fingers entering my body. I told him to stop, but he was strong. I fought him off as hard as I could but he grabbed my face in his hands, shaking me, telling me he wanted to fuck me. I was paralyzed, terrified. I couldn’t speak, I could no longer move. He held me down and raped me.”

Cohen, who has appeared in smaller roles in a number of TV series and movies, goes on to say that after the incident she told the producer about the incident and got a harsh response. “The producer put the blame on me, telling me I was an active participant. Telling me that I can’t say anything because Ed will have people come after me, destroy me, and that I could forget about an acting career. Saying there’s no way I can go around saying Ed “raped” me and that I don’t want to be “that girl.” Cohen is the latest famous woman to come forward with rape or other sexual misconduct claims since the Weinstein accusations surfaced early last month, and one of many who aren’t famous that have been sharing their stories as part of the #MeToo campaign. An LAPD spokesperson said on Tuesday that Cohen had filed a police report and that an active investigation is under way. Read her full post below.

Read the full story at Vanity Fair.


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The bodies of 26 girls, between the ages of 14 and 18, were recovered in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday, after an apparent attempt at traveling into the country on a rubber dinghy from Libya. Italian police have told CNN that they were looking into the cause of death. Police are investigating whether the girls, who were believed to be immigrants from Niger or Nigeria, had been tortured or sexually abused. Aid workers said that survivors were seen clinging to the remains of a near-capsized dinghy, with the bodies of the girls floating around them. The dinghy was discovered during one of four separate rescue operations in the Mediterranean this weekend, during which 400 people, including 90 women and 52 minors, were safely recovered.

Libya has become a well-known starting point for migrants hoping to flee war, persecution, and poverty in countries across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia by making a treacherous journey across the Mediterranean into Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration, 2,839 migrants have died making the journey this year.

Read the full story at CNN.


Aunt of drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy whose photo went viral speaks out

‘Please help me’

A British tourist has been held in jail for four weeks in Egypt and could face the death penalty after reportedly being arrested for bringing pain medication into the country for her husband, who was recovering from a back injury suffered in a car crash. Laura Plummer, 33, managed to smuggle a note from her prison cell in which she wrote: “Please help me get out of this hellhole. I don’t know what’s happening. I’m scared. I had no idea that what I was doing was wrong. I thought I was doing a good deed.”

According to The Sun, which obtained the note, Plummer was being held in a 15-square-foot cell — with 25 other women.

On October 9th, Plummer was arrested at Hurghada International Airport on drug trafficking charges after she was found to have 29 strips of the pain medication tramadol in her bags. According to The Independent, the drugs had a combined street value of $30 in Egypt, but under Egyptian law it’s illegal to bring opioids into the country without permission from the Ministry of Health. Plummer was allegedly made to sign a 38-page document in Arabic that she was told would allow her to leave the airport, but instead she was taken to prison where she has been detained since. According to her brother, James Plummer, lawyers told him that Laura could spend 25 years in jail, or even face the death penalty.

Plummer’s sister, Jayne told ITV the family had been allowed to see her in prison.

“She’s unrecognizable. She’s not the girl who left,” Jayne said. “She looks vacant in her eyes and all her hair is falling out. We know she has committed a crime but she doesn’t deserve the treatment she’s getting.”

A petition calling for Plummer’s immediate return and release has received more than 16,000 signatures.

Watch ITV’s interview with Plummer’s family below.

Read the full story at The Independent.


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No scruples

For more than a decade, Harvey Weinstein has been hiring private investigators and spies to secretly undermine and intimidate women who accused him of rape and assault, as well as the reporters who dared to cover their claims, according to a bombshell report from The New Yorker.

Since at least the early 2000s, Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker reported, Weinstein has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to suppress damaging stories from coming to light. One corporate-intelligence company, Kroll, was reportedly paid to surveil the late journalist David Carr, who died in 2015, to prevent him from publishing a story about Rose McGowan’s rape allegation against Weinstein.

Using Black Cube, a company run by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies, Weinstein also hired two investigators who used false identities to extract information about McGowan — including one woman who pretended to be a women’s rights advocate and secretly recorded multiple meetings with her, the report said. After Farrow uncovered the operative’s identity and showed a photo of her to McGowan, the actress expressed shock, saying that the woman had been “very kind” and that she had been emailed by her as recently as October 23rd. Farrow reported that Weinstein had even hired journalists to interview other women who had accused him in an attempt to uncover whether they planned on speaking out — and how best to squash the story if they did.

Farrow’s digging turned up numerous shocking revelations, including that of a prominent Weinstein attorney, David Boies, who argued in favor of gay marriage in front of the Supreme Court and represented Al Gore in the contentious 2000 election outcome. Boies’ signature was found on a contract with Black Cube, which was tasked with suppressing the story that was published in The New York Times and revealed the 1997 settlement Weinstein reached with McGowan. At the same time, Boies’ firm was providing legal counsel to the Times on another matter.

In wake of the revelations, McGowan told Farrow that she felt like she was in the movie Gaslight, which revolves around a husband who conspires to trick his wife into thinking she was insane. “Everyone lied to me all the time,” she said. “I’ve lived inside a mirrored fun house.” A spokesperson for Weinstein dismissed all of the details exposed in the story, saying, “It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.”

Read the full story at The New Yorker and The New York Times.


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‘We the people’

Voters around the nation are heading to the polls Tuesday, an important day for state and local elections, and also a momentous day in New York State as it is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. In 1917, the Empire State passed a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. It was a victory 70 years in the making and a fight that many women had put up to ensure that today we can vote as we do, regardless of our sex.

That said, arriving at that pivotal moment was no easy feat and would not have been possible with the trailblazing women like Susan B. Anthony who broke the law in the name of freedom. Anthony famously violated the 14th Amendment in 1872 when she cast her vote in the presidential election for, according to Slate, Ulysses S. Grant and the rest of the Republican candidates on the ticket. The now momentous-act was covered in The New York Times the next day under the heading “minor topics” and took a dismissive tone by referring to Anthony and those with her that day as “a little band of nine ladies.”

Anthony was arrested, and in 1873 was found guilty of placing a vote and fined $100 (about $1,900 in today’s value). The official charge accused her of voting “without having a lawful right to vote” because she was “then and there a person of the female sex.” She never paid the fine, for, as she said in a fiery speech delivered after her arrest, she did not commit a crime but simply exercised her citizen’s rights.

“It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people–women as well as men,” Anthony said in her memorable speech. Although Anthony did not live to see the pinnacle of the women’s suffrage movement with the passing of the 19th amendment and its ratification in 1920, she paved the way for all of the women heading to the polls today.  


A Coca-Cola ad airing in Saudi Arabia that was meant to celebrate the kingdom’s decision to finally grant women the right to drive is drawing comparisons to Pepsi’s infamous Kendall Jenner protest ad on social media. The ad, titled Change Has a Taste, featured a man wearing a keffiyeh teaching his hijab-wearing daughter to drive by balancing a Coke bottle on the dashboard. While Coca-Cola has said that the ad was meant to celebrate and “enable the economic empowerment of women,” many users on social media accused the company of profiting off the “historic announcement” in much the same way that Pepsi allegedly attempted to monetize the Black Lives Matter movement with the Kendall Jenner protest ad.

Other users, however, defended and praised the ad for showing a scene that, until recently, would have been a crime. Saudi Arabia, which until the driving ban is officially lifted next June, will remain the only country in the world that does not allow women to obtain a driver’s license. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, who in August announced that he would create a beach where women could wear bikinis, has been leading a campaign to return the kingdom to “moderate Islam.” In recent weeks, bin Salman has also been accused of leading a purge of other princes and former government officials in an attempt to consolidate power.

Watch the ad below.

Read the full story at The New York Post.


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Period Piece

A new pop-up exhibit at the Science Gallery London explores a fundamental, but nevertheless taboo aspect of every woman’s life: menstruation. Featuring poetry, art, and music, the show is aptly titled “Period Piece.”

As The Guardian reports, the exhibit was spearheaded by Alana Harris, a historian at King’s College London. A major focus of the show is the way in which people have sought to control women’s reproductive systems over time — through ideology, through birth control, or through technology.

One feature of the show, for instance, is a piece of music inspired by the fluctuating body temperatures charted by four women using a fertility app, which can track physical changes caused by ovulation. Also on display is a word cloud sourced from reactions to the Humanae Vitae, a 1968 papal document that condemned the birth control pill. Instead, the Church counseled adhering to the “specific rhythms” of the body — something that proponents of fertility apps rely on today to prevent pregnancy.

The circular, yet changing nature of birth control trends fascinates Harris. “With fertility apps, a woman is monitoring her cycle, but she can invite her partner to join her on the app and so be involved,” she told The Guardian. “And the times when you can have sex are curtailed, so that brings back a certain restraint, something both partners have to agree on. In this way, decision-making stresses partnership much more.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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In absentia

The Swiss Freethinker Association has awarded its 2017 “Freethinker” prize to two pioneering women: Kurdish journalist and painter Zehra Doğan and writer-activist Masih Alinejad.

Sadly, neither woman could attend the awards ceremony. Doğan, the editor of the feminist Kurdish news agency Jinha, has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for creating a painting of a Kurdish town destroyed by Turkish security forces. Alinejad, a guest on the Women in the World stage numerous times, including at an event in September, is the founder of the “My Stealthy Freedom” Facebook page, which encourages women to post photos of themselves without their hijabs, and she lives in exile in the United States.

Dr. Laila Alikarami (L) accepting the prize on behalf Masih Alinajed and Naz Öke and Lucie Renée Bourges on behalf of Zehra Doğan.

Naz Öke and Lucie Renée Bourges accepted the award in Doğan’s stead. And excerpts from Zehra’s letters were read in both Turkish and English at the ceremony. Dr. Laila Alikarami accepted the award on behalf Alinjead’s behalf and and delivered some brief remarks onstage. “As My Stealthy Freedom campaign believes, saying yes is easy. We can all go with the majority and no harm will come to us,” Alikarami said. “But it is only when we say no that we exercise true freedom, that is when we become our true selves. It is only when Iranian women say no, not just to government but also to dogma and cultural norms that treats them as second-class citizens then they can achieve true equality.”

“I focus on the Middle East,” her letter reads. “I would like to further my knowledge of history, culture and regional mythology. I set aside 4 hours every day with one of my co-detainees to write a novel based on her life story. I draw and I paint whenever I can. And I’ve also started giving drawing classes to my friends here. In a way, I socialize art in my fashion. They love to draw. Soon, I’ll be able to teach them how to make a paintbrush out of bird feathers found in the yard.”

“I wouldn’t like you to imagine a sad-sack withdrawn Zehra, wasting her time,” the letter continues. “I write to tell you everything I do here, so that when you hear and pronounce the name Zehra, you picture a woman with a strong morale and hope, someone who is strong and upright.” Below, watch Alinejad’s appearance at the Women in the World Canada Summit.

Read the full story at ANF News.


Woman’s disturbing encounter with Iranian morality police caught on tape

What happened when this Iranian journalist took off her hijab


Nadya Tolokonnikova, a member of the punk band and activist group Pussy Riot, does not mince words when it comes to President Donald Trump. In an interview with MSNBC, she said she had observed uncomfortable similarities between the president and Vladimir Putin.

Both leaders, she said, are “eroding our institutions.”

“I think they make us forget that citizenship is not just using things that your government is giving to you but giving back to your government and protecting those institutions like democracy,” she added.

Tolokonnikova also seized on Trump’s adversarial relationship with the press, which she called “concerning.”

“They both hate critics,” Tolokonnikova observed. “I’ve seen how badly it can turn. I’ve seen it, in front of my eyes, for the last 17 years, and I hear it from Donald Trump, the same words about media that Putin was using for 17 years: That it’s fake news, that are paid by foreign governments and whoever.”

In 2012, Tolokonnikova and other members of Pussy Riot were arrested for singing an anti-Putin song at a church in Moscow. She served two years in prison, but continues to speak out against the Russian president.
Read more at HuffPost.


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‘Very sick’

Devin Patrick Kelley, who killed at least 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, and wounded 20 more, exhibited disturbing behavior toward ex-girlfriends, according to a report by NBC News.

Katy Landry, who once dated Kelley, told the publication that he “stalked” her after they broke up.

“Years after dating me he would try to bribe me to hang out with him,” Landry, who met Kelley in church as a teenager, told NBC News in a Facebook message. “He ended up assaulting me. He would stalk me by repeatedly calling me — even prank calling me, saying really weird stuff.” She did not elaborate as to what “weird stuff” Kelley told her, but did opine that he was “very sick in the head.”

Brittany Adcock said she dated Kelley when she was just 13 years old — and he was 18. She told a similar story to Landry, saying that Kelley offered her money “to hang out with him” after their relationship had ended.

“He somehow would always find out my number although none of my friends talked to him and he would constantly call me until I blocked his number,” she said. “Then I’d get calls from an unknown number so I’ve had to change my number quite a bit.

Kelley, who served in the Air Force, also has a troubling history of domestic violence; in 2012, he was court martialed and found guilty of assaulting his wife and young stepson, reportedly fracturing the child’s skull.

And while many of the circumstances surrounding the shooting are not yet clear, Kelley may have been motivated by an argument with his mother-in-law, who is a parishioner at the church. In the hours before the attack, he sent her threatening text messages. And Kelley’s wife’s 71-year-old grandmother, Lula White, was in the church at the time of the rampage and killed by Kelley’s gunfire.

Read the full story at NBC News.


Gunman behind Texas church rampage had history of domestic violence