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Nov 30
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More than 30 years after the publication of her best-selling novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood has announced a sequel is on the way. The author says the new novel is inspired in part by letters from fans desperate for more information about the dystopian patriarchal world of Gilead.

“The other inspiration,” said Atwood in a video announcing a September 2019 release date for The Testaments, “is the world we’ve been living in.”

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has found a renewed audience in recent years following a popular TV adaptation by Hulu and an increased push from religious conservatives at limiting women’s rights — in particular, the right to safe and legal abortions. In the wake of the show’s success, pro-choice protesters have even taken to dressing as ‘handmaids’ from the novel — women who have been forced into sexual slavery so that they can bear children for the rich and powerful — to highlight the dangers of allowing those who believe women’s sole purpose is to bear children to govern policy.

Margaret Atwood (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

Speaking with The Los Angeles Times, the 79-year-old Canadian said that real-world events served as powerful literary fuel for her dystopian vision of a United States controlled by religious extremists.

“The news has become so much more extreme,” said Atwood. “What about these people in Ohio that are saying motherhood should be mandatory? They haven’t done it yet, they’re talking about it. But when people talk about things like that, being the age I am, I’m remembering that Hitler said it all in Mein Kampf and then he did it. If they had the power, they would do it. These ideas have been tried before.” Atwood was referring to reports about an Ohio lawmakers remark that “Motherhood isn’t easy but it’s necessary,” which she made during a floor speech ahead of the state’s House of Representatives approving a bill that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

“What I’m fixated on now, of course, like all Canadians, is we’ve got our faces jammed up against the plate-glass window, looking into your country,” she continued. “What kind of shenanigans will they be up to next? What’s gonna happen next? I’ve never seen anything like it, and neither has anybody else. On one hand, it’s just riveting, and on the other hand, it’s quite appalling.”

Atwood also took on a variety of other topics in the interview with the Times — including the #MeToo movement and what comes next, her work for Equality Now, and the risk posed by extremists on both the far-right and far-left.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.

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‘Unjust outcome’

A decade before Alexander Acosta, President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, was put on a list to potentially serve as the country’s new attorney general, a then up-and-coming federal prosecutor in Florida was facing the biggest case of his life — one that involved Jeffrey Epstein, a Palm Beach multi-millionaire accused of sexually abusing at least 36 underage victims as the head of a massive sex trafficking ring. Epstein, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Trump, and Prince Andrew, was facing a lifetime in federal prison.

But, as Julie K. Brown of The Miami Herald reports, in an extraordinary and unusual plea agreement negotiated between Acosta and Epstein’s legal team, the wealthy hedge fund manager was sentenced to just 13 months in the county jail and given a non-prosecution agreement that ended an FBI probe aimed at identifying more victims and collaborators who took part in Epstein’s crimes. In violation of federal law, Accosta agreed to keep the deal from the victims — preventing any of them from appearing in court to try to prevent the deal from taking place.

“Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless. He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right,’’ said Courtney Wild, 31, an Epstein victim who said she met him when she was just 14. Now in their 20s and 30s, Wild and dozens of Epstein’s victims — The Miami Herald identified 80 women who say they were abused by the millionaire between 2001 and 2006 — are hoping that two ongoing civil lawsuits will finally give them at least some measure of justice. One case involving Epstein and lawyer Bradley Edwards, a former state prosecutor representing some of Epstein’s victims, will give the women the chance to testify in court for the first time. A second lawsuit accuses Acosta of breaking the law and conspiring with Epstein to avoid media scrutiny and deceive his victims. If successful, it would invalidate the original non-prosecution agreement — and potentially allow for another trial that could send him to federal prison.

Jeffrey Epstein is shown in this undated Florida Department of Law Enforcement photo. (REUTERS/Florida Department of Law Enforcement/Handout via Reuters)

When Wild met Epstein, she told the Herald, she wore braces, was captain of the cheerleading squad, first trumpet in the school band, and an A-student at her local middle school. Wild said that Epstein offered her and other girls from poor families $200 to $300 to give him a massage at his luxurious mansion. He paid Wild to recruit other girls, who were also paid to find more themselves. When police finally began unraveling what investigators described as a massive sexual pyramid scheme, it started with just one girl who revealed the name of two girls who recruited her. Those girls then named their recruiters, and so on, until soon police had uncovered a massive pool of victims. Police said that the girls, despite not knowing each other, all told the same story — Epstein would pay them to massage them while half or completely naked, before proceeding to molest them and pay them additional money to convince them to stay quiet and find him new victims. According to another lawsuit, still pending in New York, Epstein also used an international modeling agency to recruit girls as young as 13 from Europe, Ecuador, and Brazil.

“By the time I was 16, I had probably brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old,” said Wild. “He was involved in my life for years.”

Watch video the video below to hear from victims and government officials talking about the explosive case.

Read the full story at The Miami Herald.

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‘Pleasure revolution’

A growing wave of sex-positive feminists are working to usher in what they describe as a “pleasure revolution” in which women’s sexuality is embraced, rather than stigmatized, by both individuals and society at large. According to advocates of the movement, such as author and feminist Stephanie Theobold, the pleasure revolution is “about women asserting their own pleasure,” just as the #MeToo movement was about the problem of “men imposing their pleasure on women.” But for Reba Maybury, a 27-year-old political science professor and professional dominatrix, the larger problem is a historical power imbalance that she’s now working to correct in a unique fashion.

A socialist of mixed-race background, Maybury, who also goes by the name Mistress Rebecca, says that she had “always been fascinated by sex and notions of shame around sexuality,” particularly in regard to fetishes.

“I find it ridiculous how secretive people are about fetishes, because everybody has them. Some are just more extreme than others. For most people fetishes are quite subtle and sensitive,” she explains.

For many of her clientele, who are almost exclusively white right-wing men because she finds herself unable “to be even fictionally cruel to any other type of man,” that fetish is serving a powerful woman. Maybury derives her pleasure comes from forcing those men to see the contradiction between their love of powerful women and their support for political parties that actively work to limit women’s rights and empowerment. In her book, Dining with Humpty Dumpty, she detailed conversations with a man she said exhibited the “disgusting contradiction” of claiming to be both “a ‘female supremacist’ and a Tory.’”

“A lot of the book is about how people use political issues as a sexual fantasy and how that’s problematic,” Marbury explained in an interview with Centre Pompadour. “In the book, I decide to think about the power dynamic that exists between a dominatrix and her submissive. If he wants to really make me happy, which he says he does, what could possibly make me more happy than turning him into a socialist?”

Watch Centre Pompadour’s three-part interview with Maybury below.

 

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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Brazen assault

British model Hayley Bray was hoping for a fun family vacation when she traveled to California with her partner and 3-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, she said, the trip was ruined by a brazenly casual and disturbing incident of sexual assault while she was doing laundry at her hotel.

“He walked up to me and put his whole hand up in between my legs and tried to get his fingers in between my legs very aggressively. I was shocked,” she told the Daily Mail. “I slapped his hand off me and said, ‘What the fuck are you doing? You know that’s assault?”

Bray followed the man and threatened to call police upon him, prompting him to flee the property. When she went to the front desk of the hotel to report the incident, staff showed her CCTV footage taken from the laundry room that captured how the man passed by the room, saw her, and reacted almost immediately by stepping behind her and groping her.

“She played me the CCTV and was shocked anyone could do this to someone in broad daylight,” Bray recalled. “I feel sick every time I watch it.”

Police are reportedly investigating the assault, but as of yet no arrests have been made.

Watch video of the incident below.

Read the full story at Yahoo News.

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‘Mortified’

A survivor of child rape has called for a change to British law after her jailed rapist was allegedly offered the option to apply for “parental rights” over her son, who was conceived as a result of the attack. Sammy Woodhouse, who waived her legal right to anonymity in order to come forward with her allegations, said that the issue arose after the local council in the British city of Rotherham began seeking alternative care for her troubled son — a measure that Woodhouse had approved. But without even notifying her, she said, the council contacted her rapist, Arshid Hussain, as a potential respondent — despite the fact that he did not have parental responsibility nor even his name on her son’s birth certificate.

“I was absolutely mortified when I found out and the fact as well that they did not even tell me what they were doing until I was actually at court,” Woodhouse told Good Morning Britain on Wednesday. In the courtroom, she added, she was informed that her abuser, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2016 after being convicted of 23 child sex offenses, would be allowed to attend the court hearings and potentially be authorized visitation rights. Furthermore, she alleged, the council claimed that her son could even be put in the custody of Hussain’s relatives.

“This is happening all over the country and it needs to stopped,” said Woodhouse.

Woodhouse’s decision to speak out, she said, was motivated by her desire to prevent a similar situation playing out for other victims of rape. She has called for a change to the 1989 Children Act to ensure “rapists can’t gain access to children conceived through rape and abuse.” Woodhouse was one of 1,400 children who were abused in Rotherham over 16 years by a network of men, most of whom allegedly belonged to Pakistani gangs.

In a statement, a Rotherham Council spokesperson said it was in touch with the U.K. Ministry of Justice to determine how to deal with legal requirements that include “giving notice of proceedings to parents with or without formal parental responsibility.”

“It is imperative that clarity is realized as soon as possible, not just for Rotherham, but to ensure that other councils across the country who may face similar issues are able to act with certainty and no more survivors of abuse have to experience further trauma,” said the spokesperson.

Watch a video interview with Woodhouse below.

Read the full story at CNN.

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11.30.18

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