Feb 08
Her eye on the news
‘Young & vulnerable’

Instagram is reportedly working to remove all graphic images of self-harm from the platform in wake of pressure from the family of a 14-year-old girl, Molly Russell who killed herself in 2017 after repeatedly viewing self-harm content on the site.

Molly’s father, Ian Russell, had accused the social-media platform of partial-responsibility in her death, claiming that Instagram “helped kill” his daughter. Speaking to the BBC, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said that they would begin removing graphic images of self-harm “as quickly as we can, responsibly.”

“Historically, we have allowed content related to self-harm that’s ‘admission’ because people sometimes need to tell their story — but we haven’t allowed anything that promoted self-harm,” said Mosseri. “But, moving forward, we’re going to change our policy to not allow any graphic images of self-harm.”

Self-harm images that were focused on people telling stories of recovery, he added, would be allowed to remain.

“I might have an image of a scar or say, ‘I’m 30 days clean,’ and that’s an important way to tell my story,” he explained.

Responding to the news, Russell said he welcomed the change, and that he would continue to push other social media companies to follow suit.

“It is now time for other social media platforms to take action to recognize the responsibility they too have to their users if the internet is to become a safe place for young and vulnerable people,” said Russell.

Read the full story at BBC News.

If you or anyone you know needs help, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)


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‘Smoking hot’

A Canada woman has become an unlikely — and posthumous — celebrity thanks to a hilarious obituary written by her children, in which they joke that being cremated finally gave her “the smoking hot body I have always wanted.”

“It hurts me to admit it, but I, Mrs. Ron Hicks from Baysville, have passed away,” they wrote, as if by Sybil Marie Hicks herself. “I leave behind my loving husband, Ron Hicks, whom I often affectionately referred to as a ‘Horse’s Ass.’”

“I also left behind my children whom I tolerated over the years,” it continues, naming one of them, Bob, as her “favorite,” while simultaneously chastising “Baby Brace” for not eating “homemade turkey soup because he didn’t want to be alert looking for bones.”

The spicy tongue-in-cheek testimonial went viral after being published on social media, as users paid tribute to the Hicks family’s sense of humor and speculated about the identity of “Dorothy,” who is identified as the “special friend … who is now lovingly taking care of my horse’s ass.” After a spirited debate, most users appeared to conclude that “Dorothy” was more likely to be a family pet than a human mistress.

“Thank you all for sharing my life with me,” the obituary continues, more tenderly. “I am off to swim to the buoy and back.”

Read her full obituary below.

Read the full story at The Spec.


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An opposition party in Thailand has named a princess as their nominee for prime minister, a bold move that threatens to upend the ruling military party’s close ties with the country’s popular royal family.

Customarily under the Thai constitutional monarchy system, royals recuse themselves from politics. But the status of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, 67, falls into a gray area since she had her highest royal titles taken from her by her father in 1972 after she married a fellow student, American Peter Ladd Jensen, who she met while at school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ubolratana, who returned to Thailand following her divorce from Jensen in 1998, will represent the Thai Raksa Chart Party in next month’s elections. The party is associated with former P.M. Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist who went into exile in 2008 after being convicted on a corruption charge that he claimed was fabricated by royalist enemies and the military.

Current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of a 2014 coup that ousted the country’s previous elected government, will serve as the nominee for the Palang Pracharat Party, which is widely perceived as being controlled by the military. Prayuth had been expected to be a runaway winner ahead of the March 24 polls due to legal changes that made it impractical to become prime minister without the support of the military.

But the selection by the opposition party of the popular member of the royal family, experts say, will make it hard for the military to block her should she win the vote — and raises questions about the king’s allegiances with the military.

Just hours after Ubolratana’s nomination was announced, the king made a televised statement suggesting he had been caught by surprise. “Involvement of a high-ranking member of the royal family in politics, in whatever way, is an act that conflicts with the country’s traditions, customs and culture and therefore is considered extremely inappropriate,” he said.

It is thought the king’s opposition will result in Ubolratana’s disqualification by the election commission.

Since her return to Thailand, Ubolratana has found success as an actress, TV hostess, and anti-drug campaigner. A savvy social media user, the princess’s posts went viral in 2017 with videos featuring her singing holiday songs such as We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

“I have relinquished my royal titles and lived as a commoner,” she said in an Instagram post announcing her decision to run.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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'Zero tolerance'

Afghan officials cannot be relied on to properly investigate reports of sexual abuse of members of the national women’s soccer team, their head coach said on Thursday, as she urged governing body FIFA to bring in new measures to protect victims.

Former U.S. international Kelly Lindsey spoke out after a panel laid out a series of recommendations aimed at protecting victims and cracking down on those found to have committed wrongdoing in the wake of the scandal.

“The women who raised their voices have taken an immense amount of pressure on their shoulders because it is life or death for them and their families,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview from Hong Kong.

“I think FIFA really needs to stand up here — they are the governing body of football and if they allow this to happen in their culture then it’s easy for it to be pushed under the rug.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered an investigation in December after allegations that some players had been molested by officials from the country’s soccer federation.

The Afghan Football Federation called the accusations “groundless” and said it would cooperate with any investigation. Its head and five other officials have been suspended.

A FIFA spokesman said the world football federation had “zero tolerance” for human rights violations and was already involved in addressing the Afghan abuse allegations.

This included measures to investigate the reports and to protect those who had spoken out, he said.

A panel led by former FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan in London on Tuesday urged Afghan officials to fully investigate all claims of criminal wrongdoing and offer protection for players and whistleblowers.

“The culture in football needs urgent reform,” said Prince Ali in a statement.

Panel members said new contracts that bar Afghan women’s team members from speaking about the team and enforce wearing the hijab should be scrapped.

FIFA, the world football federation, was also urged to take action to prevent future abuse including establishing clear whistleblowing processes within the sport, and founding a fully independent body to investigate player sexual assault cases.

Member organizations found to be non-compliant should suffer sanctions such as financial penalties, suspension and expulsion, they added.

“It’s important this is looked at seriously and taken care of, because Afghanistan in my opinion is not the only place this is happening,” Lindsey said.

Afghanistan ranks as one of the most dangerous countries for women, and allegations of sexual contact outside marriage can have deadly consequences.

Married victims of sexual harassment are often extremely reluctant to come forward for fear that they will be accused of adultery.

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens, Thomson Reuters Foundation)


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‘Breaking Conventions’

Michal Zernowitski, a veteran programmer, project manager, and developer, is making history in Israel as the first ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman to run for MP in the center-left secular Labor party. Born into the notoriously conservative Haredi community — which is typically represented by the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, both of which have refused to field woman candidates based on religious grounds — the 38-year-old mother of four insists that there is nothing within the laws of Judaism that bars women from holding office. Her campaign slogan, appropriately, is simply: “Breaking Conventions.”

There are “hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox [Israelis] who no longer vote automatically for ultra-Orthodox parties, who want change and who believe in equality, social justice and peace,” said Zernowitski in a statement announcing her candidacy in January.

Once a proud UTJ supporter, Zernowitski said her views began shifting left in her early 20s after she grew increasingly disturbed by the grim reality of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It started to really bother me that there are a few million Palestinians, living in areas we control, who have no real status,” she said. “So, it all began for me out of a concern for human rights.” As a member of ultra-Orthodox feminist group Not Elected, Won’t Vote, Zernowitski has worked to end the ban on women politicians in the Shas and UTJ parties. She is also at the forefront of a movement to end the economic exploitation of ultra-Orthodox women in the workforce. In most Haredi families, she says, women are the principal wage earners as the men spend their days studying scripture. These effectively unrepresented women, she explains, have no recourse or champions to fight for them despite being “among the lowest-paid workers in the country.”

Zernowitski faces a steep challenge in her bid to be chosen as a candidate for MP during Labor’s April polls. She has faced criticism in the Labor party over her faith’s conservative stance on issues such as homosexuality, and many remain unconvinced that the legions of liberal Haredi that Zernowitski speaks of will show up to vote for her. Nonetheless, she has resolved to continue to fight for greater equality — both within her community and outside of it.

“I am a religious woman but also a liberal,” she said. “I don’t want to force people to do what I choose to do.”

Read the full story at France 24 and Haaretz.


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Torture allegations

The family of detained Saudi Arabian activist Loujain al-Hathloul have shared horrifying details of her alleged torture at the hands of the Saudi government as she and other women’s rights advocates continue to be held in prison without even being charged.

“My own baby sister said she is being whipped, beaten, electrocuted and harassed on a frequent basis,” wrote her brother, Walid, in a recent Op-Ed for CNN. “Whenever Loujain spoke about the torture sessions to my parents, her hands shook uncontrollably. I fear the pain will stay with her forever.”

“She said she had been held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder … My parents then saw that her thighs were blackened by bruises,” added her sister, Alia, in an interview with The New York Times.

Al-Hathloul, 29, has faced repeated harassment from Saudi authorities since she was first arrested for protesting the country’s ban on women driving by trying to drive from the United Arab Emirates back into Saudi Arabia. She was arrested again in the summer of 2017 without being charged with a crime, only to be sent to prison once more in the summer of 2018 just before the country lifted its ban on women drivers. At least 10 other women were arrested in the crackdown — most of them activists who had fought for women’s right to drive. According to recent investigations by British lawmakers and Human Rights Watch (HRW), all have been denied access to lawyers and at least three subjected to torture and sexual assault.

HRW researcher Adam Coogle told SBS News that the brutal treatment the women were suffering was indicative of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s desire to show dissidents “that they would go to any length to eliminate criticism.”

“Of course, we have heard numerous instances of beating and torture of men over the years,” he said. “Treating women in this manner is something that we have never really heard before … I can still hardly believe it myself.”

Read the full story at SBS News.


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Ray of sunshine

The city of Townsville, Australia, is still reeling from a one-in-500 year flood event, and bracing for an enormous clean-up, amid warnings of mosquito- and soil-borne diseases. The catastrophic floods in the northeastern state of Queensland took two lives, devastated crops and resulted in widespread deaths of cattle — with an estimated toll in the hundreds of thousands — and rendered hundreds of homes uninhabitable.

With all that to contend with, it’s not surprising that local girl Katelyn Georgetown was just the ray of sunshine needed, capturing hearts with some homespun reporting “for [her] black mob” on the state of play.

“As you can see, there’s a big flood,” she says, pointing to the swollen banks of the Ross River behind her. “And see there’s crocodiles, snakes — my Aunty just saw a snake before. There’s snakes, crocodiles — ain’t nobody got time for that!”

After being shared by the Australian national broadcaster’s ABC Indigenous platform — a portal dedicated to stories for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — the video went viral.

“Today’s Forecast- Rainy with a chance of reptiles,” joked one commenter on Twitter.

The overwhelming reactions included multiple calls to give her a regular broadcasting spot. “Get this young lady a camera and mic of her own. She will own everyone,” said one.

“Don’t you just love this? Brilliant. @BreakfastNews please snap this child up before someone else does, put her on a contract to start work with you as soon as she leaves school!,” chimed in another.

ABC Indigenous itself paid her one of the highest compliments in Aboriginal slang — “We think you’re deadly, Katelyn!” — as well as using the kidding-not-kidding hashtag #ShesComingForOurJobs.

Katelyn Georgetown. (Twitter/ABC Indigenous)


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