Feb 14
Her eye on the news
Closure and justice

Samuel Little, a serial killer serving life in prison who claims to have killed 90 women, has provided 16 portraits of women he purportedly killed to the FBI as law enforcement officers scramble to identify as many as 90 of his alleged victims. The FBI has released the drawings to the public in the hope that family or friends of the women could help identify them.

Little was convicted in 2004 for the killings of three women in California in 1987 and 1989, and has been confirmed as the perpetrator of at least 34 more murders since he began confessing to law enforcement officials in November. Another eight of his confessions have recently been confirmed or linked to open cases, the FBI said Tuesday. According to the FBI, more than half of Little’s confessions remain unconfirmed — in part because authorities at the time often didn’t bothered to identify or investigate the deaths of his victims, most of whom were “marginalized” or transgender women.

Serial killer Samuel Little has drawn 16 of his alleged victims. (FBI handouts)

In a summary of the case on the FBI website, crime analyst Christina Palazzolo said that Little, a boxer, liked to knock out his victims with punches before strangling them to death — providing little evidence to forensic investigators to prove that the victims were murdered. Given the lack of strong evidence and the willful disregard of his victims’s rights by society, many of whom were sex workers and transgender women, many of the deaths likely were not investigated or were ruled accidental deaths.

“Little chose to kill marginalized and vulnerable women who were often involved in prostitution and addicted to drugs. Their bodies sometimes went unidentified and their deaths uninvestigated,” the FBI said. Their current goal, they added, “is to identify his victims and provide closure and justice in unsolved cases.”

Read the full story at NBC News.


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‘So typically you’

Michelle Obama made a superstar entrance at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, taking the stage hand-in-hand with Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Jada Pinkett Smith, before joining her friend and Grammys host Alicia Keys. Onstage, she gave a fiery speech about the power of music — in her personal life and outside of it — that threatened to steal headlines for the evening. But at least one person, Obama revealed, wasn’t particularly impressed by the former first lady’s starpower. On Wednesday, Obama shared images of a text exchange between her and her mother, Marian Robinson, captioning the conversation: “When your mom doesn’t think you’re a ‘real’ celebrity.”

“I guess you were a hit at the Grammys,” wrote Robinson.

“This text is so typically you … Did you watch it?!” replied Obama.

“I saw it because Gracie called me. Did you meet any of the real stars or did you run right after you were done,” replied Robinson, ruthlessly.

“I told you I was going to be on it…” responded the former first lady, adding: “I am a real star…by the way…”

Obama’s many achievements may leave her mother unphased, but the same could not be said for the crowd at the Grammys, who welcomed her on stage to thunderous applause. In her speech, Obama told the crowd that music had “always helped me tell my story,” and that she personally wanted to celebrate the way song “helps us share ourselves — our dignity and sorrows, our hopes and joys.” It reminded her, she said, to listen and appreciate the people around her, to hear “every story within every voice, every note within every song.”

In a picture from the night shared by the former first lady, Obama wrote that her decision to attend the Grammys was made in support of the event’s host, singer/songwriter Alicia Keys, a longtime friend who performed for the Obamas in the White House on multiple occasions.

“A big part of friendship is showing up for your girls — that’s why I was thrilled to be there for the one and only @aliciakeys at the #GRAMMYs,” wrote Obama. “She is one of the most genuine and thoughtful people I know — there’s no one better to help us all celebrate the unifying power of music!”

Read the full story at Teen Vogue.


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'Abuse of power'

Acclaimed Filipino journalist Maria Ressa was arrested on Wednesday in a move that press rights activists denounced as a blatant attempt by President Rodrigo Duterte at silencing one of his most outspoken critics. She was subsequently released on bail Thursday, after spending the night in detention.

Duterte, who has previously referred to reporters as “sons of bitches” and “spies” who shouldn’t be “exempted from assassination,” has repeatedly singled out Ressa and members of her news organization, Rappler, for their unflinching coverage of his drug war, which has claimed the lives of an estimated 20,000 Filipinos. Her arrest on Wednesday came at the behest of the Department of Justice, who charged Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr., a former researcher and writer for Rappler, arrested for “cyber libel” under the country’s Cybercrime Prevention Act, over an article written in 2012. The 55-year-old journalist is also facing charges relating to tax evasion and violation of foreign ownership laws.

“I will do the right thing,” Ressa told reporters after plainclothes agents from the National Bureau of Investigations served her with a warrant for her arrest at her newsroom in Manila. “These legal acrobatics show how far the government will go to silence journalists, including the pettiness of forcing me to spend the night in jail.”

On posting bail, Ressa declared the arrest an “abuse of power and the weaponization of the law.”

“This is not just about me, not just about Rappler,” she said.

In a court filing last year, Ressa denounced the charges against her as “baffling and unfounded,” noting that it didn’t even make sense to charge her under the Cybercrime Prevention Act since the allegedly offending article had been published four months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act even become law.

Her arraignment is set for March 1.

In a statement, the Philippines’ National Union of Journalists decried Ressa’s arrest as “a shameless act of persecution by a bully government,” adding that “independent Filipino journalists will never allow freedom of the press to be suppressed.”

Ressa founded Rappler in 2012 alongside three other prominent women journalists — Lilibeth Frondoso, Glenda Gloria and Chay Hofileña. Ressa was honored as one of WITW’s “10 Crusaders of 2018″  and was among a group of journalists collectively named Time magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year.

At last year’s Women in the World Summit, Rappler multimedia journalist Patricia Evangelista shared chilling accounts of the violence she’d witnessed during Duterte’s drug war, noting that Duterte had also suspended Rappler’s press license and barred some of its reporters from covering him.

Watch video of Evangelista’s appearance at the 2018 Summit below:

Read the full story at The New York Times and The Washington Post.


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Forged by five

Much has been made of the influence of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s parents on her ascension to one of America’s most powerful women, but she says more is owed to her children in shaping her as the leader she is today.

Pelosi, born Nancy D’Alesandro, was the seventh child and only daughter of Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. — a Democratic congressman and three-time mayor of Baltimore. But it’s her kids who forged her, she says.

Pelosi, 78, regards being a mother as the most exciting, exhausting, important work of her life, according to the Washington Post’s Ellen McCarthy, and hopes that society will come to see child rearing as she does — a “gold star” on anyone’s professional resume.

Married in 1963, Pelosi was a mother of five by 1970. “I became so energized and efficient in the use of time and willing to delegate, to the children, responsibilities,” she says. “It really shapes you. There’s no question.”

And while her intellect and political nous alone would have undoubtedly propelled to a powerful and effective role, she does credit her experience as a mother as being significant in developing and fortifying her skills set, and driving her ambition to effect policy change. “What took me from the kitchen to Congress was knowing that 1 in 5 children in America lives in poverty,” she says. “I just can’t stand that.”

During the recent government shutdown — the longest in U.S. history — Pelosi cited her parenting experience when describing the president’s petulant exit from an unsuccessful meeting about funding for a border wall. “I’m the mother of five, grandmother of nine,” Pelosi told reporters. “I know a temper tantrum when I see one.”

Pelosi’s reprimands, her adult daughter Nancy Corinne Prowda recalls, were seldom loud but deeply withering — a style she recognizes persists, when she sees broadcasts of her mother at work.

Pelosi’s transferable skills aren’t all disciplinary, though. Raising five children has also made her effective at coalition politics and marshaling consensus, McCarthy oberves.

Pelosi’s advice to women caught in the perpetual challenge of achieving a satisfactory balance between work and parenting is to “Know your own power.”

“Don’t let anybody diminish for one moment the time you spend at home,” she says, “because probably nothing is more energizing, purposeful, better to orient you to know how to use time, delegate authority.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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Preyed upon

The number of child soldiers, especially girls, found being recruited around the world has risen dramatically in recent years, as armed conflicts that target children have intensified, a leading agency said on Tuesday.

Instances of girls found used by armed groups jumped fourfold last year from the year before to nearly 900, although the actual number is likely to be far higher, Child Soldiers International (CSI), a London-based rights group, said.

Children are recruited to be fighters, informants, looters, messengers, spies and as domestic and sexual slaves, it said.

They are particularly vulnerable in conflict-torn countries in the Middle East as well as in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

Conflicts have grown in regions where children are used, namely by the Islamist insurgency Boko Haram in West Africa and in war-ravaged Congo, said Sandra Olsson, CSI program manager.

In sum, more than 29,000 cases of children recruited as soldiers were verified from 2012 to 2017 in 17 countries, the group said.

The figures more than doubled to roughly 8,000 cases in 2017 in 15 countries from some 3,000 cases in 12 countries in 2012.

Actual numbers are near impossible to count but could reach the hundreds of thousands, Olsson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I think we will see children recruited anew, and we have seen that, wherever there is conflict,” she said. “They are easily preyed upon.”

The higher numbers also reflect improved methods of counting cases, as the issue has gained public attention over the last two decades, she said.

Also on Tuesday, 119 children were released by an armed group in South Sudan, among them 48 girls, aid groups said.

More than 19,000 children are still being used by armed groups in South Sudan’s civil war, said UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s agency which estimates that globally tens of thousands of children are used in conflicts.

“Despite significant progress made … the battle is far from won,” a UNICEF spokesman said in an email.

As armed conflicts have become more local, within a country or region as opposed to nations at war, children are more easily drawn in, Olsson said.

Counter-efforts include enforcing a minimum age of 18 for armed service and supporting families whose options are so limited that recruitment is seen as a way to feed, educate or protect children, experts say.

Former child soldiers are at risk of being re-recruited as well because they may be shunned and stigmatized when they return home, experts say.

CSI based its findings on analysis of the U.N.’s annual reports on children and armed conflict.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Claire Cozens, Thomson Reuters Foundation.)


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