4-30-19 France harassment law hands out 447 fines in first months
French courts have handed down 447 fines in the past eight months under new laws to tackle street harassment of women. The "outrages sexistes" law was passed in August 2018, and allows for on-the-spot fines of up to €750 (£650). The first fine was handed down a month later to a man who slapped a woman's bottom on a bus and made lewd remarks. Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa said the number of cases since had proved such measures work. In a progress report to the French parliament, she said the figures were nothing to be ashamed of. "Many of you on these benches told us it would never work, that we would not be able to define offensive sexist behaviour," she said - and promised that the deterrent would "grow in power". he did, however, point to online abuse as an area where more needed to be done - saying some platforms such as Twitter were not co-operative in identifying the individuals behind accounts and removing offending content. The new law allows for fines between €90 and and €750 to be issued on the spot - a measure chosen because of the high number of women who do not want to engage in a lengthy and difficult formal complaint process. It had been planned for well over a year, but came into effect just a month after a video of a man assaulting a woman sitting at a café shocked viewers in France and around the world. At the same time, France had been grappling with sexual equality issues as its own version of the #MeToo movement – #BalanceTonPorc ("rat on your pig") – gained traction. A study released in early 2018 by Paris-based think tank Fondation Jean Jaurès found that one in eight French women had been raped at least once in their lives, while 43% had been touched in a sexual manner without their consent. (Webmaster's comment: We should pass the same law in the United States only triple the fines to $2,500!)
4-26-19 Native American pageant honours missing and murdered women
The Native American equivalent of Miss World will be dedicated this year to the deaths and disappearances of indigenous women, its organisers say. The Miss Indian World Pageant is a part of one of the largest gatherings of Native American people in the US. Organizers of the annual Gathering of Nations Powwow in New Mexico say they hope to raise awareness. Some federal studies have shown Native American women are killed at more than 10 times the national average. Around 3,000 singers and dancers, and 800 artisans are expected to attend the powwow, which began on Friday. The pageant will feature 18 contestants from tribes in the US and Canada. Held every year since 1984, the contest is meant to celebrate Native American culture and provide a platform for indigenous women to showcase their tribes and cultures. Participants are judged on their public speaking and cultural presentations. Melonie Mathews, whose family founded the Gathering of Nations Powwow, said this year's pageant is for the missing and murdered Native American women. "We're just recognising and trying to bring more of a call of action toward the issue itself," Ms Mathews said in a statement to the Associated Press. "Hopefully it will be the beginning to the end of this problem."
4-26-19 The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
Weary of the enduring legend of Jack the Ripper, British historian Hallie Rubenhold has written “a blistering counternarrative,” said Wendy Smith in The Washington Post. Choosing to shift the focus from the notorious and still unidentified London killer to the five women he brutally murdered across two months in 1888, Rubenhold “finally gives them their due,” proving that the lore has badly misrepresented them. In fact, none of the four who were slain in the street were working prostitutes: They were wives and mothers who had fallen on hard times, a fate that was too common and often too punishing in Industrial Age England. At times, the author’s tone can be “slightly overheated,” but she leaves little doubt that the odds were stacked against these women and millions like them. The killer’s victims “died in hell, but they lived in hell, too,” said Frances Wilson in TheGuardian.com. Because they were women, their options were severely limited when fate left them single. Polly Nichols, for one, was a blacksmith’s daughter and a bright student. But when she left her cheating husband, she could win no financial support without demonstrating destitution by entering one of London’s infamous workhouses. A long slide into alcoholism followed, and at a time when up to 600 homeless people filled Trafalgar Square, she, too, was sleeping on the street on the night she was murdered. We hear similar tales about Annie Chapman, Catherine Eddowes, and Elizabeth Stride. Rubenhold’s book “brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Victorian values,’” said Daisy Goodwin in The Times (U.K.). But if 1888 London seems “an unfathomably distant time and place,” it shouldn’t, said Kelly Faircloth in Jezebel.com. “Murdered women are still consumed as entertainment,” and the disadvantaged are still blamed for requiring society’s help. However fearsome Jack the Ripper may have been, “ultimately he’s much less frightening than the prospect of a future that re-creates the conditions that put his victims so easily within his reach.”
4-24-19 Japan sterilisation law victims get compensation and apology
Tens of thousands of victims of forced sterilisation in Japan are now entitled to compensation. Under a eugenics law which was in effect from 1948 to 1996, people were made to undergo operations to prevent them having children deemed "inferior". Many of the victims had physical or cognitive disabilities, mental illness, or behavioural problems. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has issued an apology for the "great suffering" they experienced. Under a new law that was passed on Wednesday, surviving victims will each receive 3.2 million yen ($28,600; £22,100). Many were children or teenagers when they were operated on. They now have five years to apply for compensation, which will need to be approved by a board of experts. "During the period the law was in effect, many people were subjected to operations that made them unable to have children based on their having a disability or another chronic illness, causing them great suffering," Mr Abe said in a statement. "As the government that carried out this law, after deep reflection, I would like to apologise from the bottom of my heart." About 20 victims of the law are currently suing the government over it. The first judgement in one of these cases is due at the end of May. One unnamed woman, who is suing for 11m yen ($98,300; £76,000), was sterilised in 1972 at the age of 15 after being diagnosed with "hereditary feeble-mindedness". "We've had agonising days," her sister told a press conference last January. "We stood up to make this society brighter." The Eugenics Protection Law came into force in 1948, as Japan struggled to rebuild itself after World War Two. It sought to prevent people with physical and cognitive disabilities from being able to have children, as well as those with mental illnesses. People with certain diseases were also sterilised - such as those with leprosy, a now-curable condition known as Hansen's disease. It's believed that at least 25,000 people were sterilised in the 48 years the law was in place and, while few records remain of the time, it's thought that at least 16,500 of those did not give consent. (Webmaster's comment: In the United States some 60,000 were sterilized against their will. Some were recently compensated with about $25,000. How that makes up for it is beyond me.)
4-21-19 'I'm either too black or not black enough': One teenager's experience
Coming here for my senior year has been quite an experience. The most jarring: I feel like a minority. Don't get me wrong, I've been a minority before. Technically, all people of African descent are minorities in America, the place where I've lived most of my life. Yet, this is the first time I've been aware of it. There are so few black students at my school that by next year, there's a good chance that no one in secondary will have black skin. Should that not be scary? Is it weird for me that it is? It's not that I'm scared to be the only black person at the school; that's not really the issue. It's that there's part of black culture that has spread throughout the student population that reeks of ignorance. I hear the N-word on a daily basis; I see gang signs being tossed around as if they hold no other significance than a flick of the wrist. Students say it's OK because it's part of rap culture, which most of the student body listens to; but it's not. I hear the whispers of others making fun of my skin tone, yet I'm mocked if I wear a chain. I'm stared at by others and confronted by questions such as if I am related to another dark-skinned person in this community because "we look alike". I am either too black or not black enough; yet no matter what, I am in the wrong. The stares weigh over me like a thick smog, the whispers cloud my hearing, and on this campus I am left an outcast. Isolated. Alone. The first time I heard the N-word was shortly after I arrived. It was after school in the secondary building's upstairs lobby. I was talking to two other classmates, and across from us, a group of peers played chess at one of the tables. Paying them no attention, I began to tap away at my computer's keyboard. I don't know what caused it, but there seemed to be a move made that provoked one of the players to voice his frustration out loud, causing him to let the word slip from his mouth. We all knew it was intended for his friend, but I couldn't stop the way my stomach dropped at hearing such a word used. They even had the audacity to freeze afterward; and from my peripheral, I saw them turn their heads to look at me and gauge my reaction, his friend chiding him in a rushed whisper. I knew it was wrong, they knew it was wrong, yet the weight of their stares sewed my mouth shut and glued my eyes to the computer screen. So he said it again, in a different sentence, but a little louder as if testing the waters once more, and when my body grew taut and my mouth refused to open, they giggled. And repeated it another time, with renewed strength, laughter almost euphoric as I sat frozen in place, unable to continue typing and forcing my finger to drag across the mouse pad so it looked like I was doing something. Anything. I felt sick to my stomach. To continue breathing felt like a chore. To sit there and not cry was almost unbearable. (Webmaster's comment: White male racist brutes! They only have courage in numbers. They should all be in prison!)
4-20-19 Nxivm: Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman pleads guilty in 'sex cult' case
US heiress Clare Bronfman has pleaded guilty to her role in an alleged sex trafficking operation. Bronfman, the 40-year-old heir to the Seagram alcohol fortune, was accused of using more than $100m (£77m) to fund the suspected sex cult Nxivm. She pleaded guilty on two counts - conspiracy to conceal and harbour illegal immigrants for financial gain, and fraudulent use of identification. She told the court in Brooklyn that she was "truly remorseful". "I wanted to do good in the world and help people," she added. "However, I have made mistakes." Six people in total have been accused of being involved with Nxivm, pronounced nexium. Bronfman is the fifth to plead guilty, with just one defendant - the suspected cult leader Keith Raniere - due to go on trial next month. Bronfman will be sentenced on 25 July. She could face up to 25 years in prison, although sentencing guidelines suggest it could be up to only 27 months. Nxivm is a group that started in 1998 as a self-help programme and says it has worked with more than 16,000 people, including Smallville actress Allison Mack, who pleaded guilty earlier this month. On its website, Nxivm describes itself as a "community guided by humanitarian principles that seek to empower people and answer important questions about what it means to be human". Despite its tagline of "working to build a better world", its leader, Mr Raniere, stands accused of overseeing a "slave and master" system within the group. According to the group's website, it has suspended enrolment and events because of the "extraordinary circumstances facing the company at this time". Prosecutors allege the group mirrors a pyramid scheme, in which members paid thousands of dollars for courses to rise within its ranks.
4-20-19 India chief justice Gogoi accused of sexual harassment
India's Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has been accused of sexual harassment by a former Supreme Court employee. The 35-year-old woman has filed an affidavit alleging two instances of misconduct in October last year, shortly after Mr Gogoi was appointed. She says her family was victimised after she refused the advances. A statement said Mr Gogoi, 64, "totally denied" the "false and scurrilous" accusations. He has labelled them an attempt to "destabilise the judiciary". The allegations were filed in a sworn affidavit that has been sent to Supreme Court judges. In it the married woman, who cannot be named under Indian law, alleges the misconduct occurred on 10 and 11 October at the offices in Mr Gogoi's residence. She alleges Mr Gogoi "hugged me around the waist, and touched me all over my body with his arms" and pressed his body against her. When he did not stop, she says she "was forced to push him away from me with my hands". The woman says Mr Gogoi then told her not to mention what had happened or her family "would be greatly disturbed". The woman alleges she was transferred three times, then fired in December. She says her husband and brother were both suspended from their jobs. In March a resident of the city of Jhajjar filed a complaint alleging she had kept money she had taken as a bribe to get him a job at the court. She denies the accusation and says she attended a police station with family members in March where they were subjected to abusive treatment. "It now seems like the harassment, victimisation, and torture will not stop unless I speak out about the origin and motive for the harassment," she alleges in the affidavit.
4-19-19 Why India sees sex on false promise of marriage as rape
If a man goes back on his promise to marry a woman, can sex between consenting adults then be considered rape? The Indian Supreme Court recently answered this question with a "yes". In a significant verdict, the court upheld a trial court order convicting a doctor of rape in the central state of Chhattisgarh because he had a consensual sexual relationship with a woman after he'd promised to marry her, but then went back on his word and married someone else. Judges L Nageswara Rao and MR Shah said the woman gave her consent because she believed that the doctor intended to marry her, therefore, it could not be regarded as consent. India is still largely conservative when it comes to matters of sex and sexuality. Virginity is prized and a woman who's known to have had pre-marital sex may find it hard to get married. The judges said that the accused had a "clear intention" not to marry her, adding that "sexual intercourse under total misconception cannot be treated as consent". Though the top court reduced the 10-year prison term awarded by the trial court to seven, the judges said that he "must face the consequences of the crime committed by him". This is not a rare case - according to the government's crime data for 2016, police recorded 10,068 similar cases of rape by "known persons on promise to marry the victim". In 2015, that number was 7,655. The Supreme Court judges advised the trial courts to "very carefully examine whether the man actually wanted to marry the victim or had malafide motives from the start and had made a false promise only to satisfy his lust". This essentially means that if a man can prove that he intended to marry the woman but changed his mind later, then it's not rape. It's only considered rape if it's established that he had dubious intentions from the start. Now as "intention" is not easy to prove, it leaves such cases to the discretion of judges and also concerns that the law can be misused.
4-19-19 Saudi sisters in Georgia: 'We were treated like slaves'
"We have to cover our face, we have to cook...like slaves. We don't want this, we want real life, our life," says 25-year-old Wafa, the latest woman to flee Saudi Arabia with her sister. Wafa and Maha al-Subaie, 28, are now in the republic of Georgia and are under state protection in a shelter. They had made their case for international help on Twitter, under the account @GeorgiaSisters. The sisters are appealing to the UN to help them get to a third, safe country. They travelled to Georgia as Saudis do not require entry visas. "We need your support, we want protection, we want a country that will welcome us and protect our rights," said Wafa. Looking distressed and terrified, the Saudi sisters arrived at Georgia's migration department on Thursday evening accompanied by immigration authorities. In an interview to local media the sisters said they did not feel safe in Georgia because it would be easy for their male relatives to find them. "Georgia is a small country and anyone from our family can come and track us down," Wafa said. Asked why they felt threatened in Saudi Arabia, she said it is "because we are women". "Our family threaten us every day in our country," she said, while her sister Maha said they had proof of this. This is the latest case of Saudi women fleeing the ultra-conservative kingdom, where women are forced to obtain the permission of their male guardians if they want to work or travel. In January 2019, the 18-year old Saudi teenager, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qanun, made international headlines after she flew to Thailand and barricaded herself in a hotel while appealing on Twitter for help to avoid deportation. She has since been granted asylum in Canada. And in March, two other Saudi sisters who spent six months hiding in Hong Kong were granted humanitarian visas after fleeing to escape lives of "violence and oppression". "In Saudi Arabia men control women's lives from birth until death under the male guardianship system," said Human Rights Watch Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.
4-18-19 Bangka Island: The WW2 massacre and a 'truth too awful to speak'
In 1942, a group of Australian nurses were murdered by Japanese soldiers in what came to be known as the Bangka Island massacre. Now, a historian has collated evidence indicating they were sexually assaulted beforehand - and that Australian authorities allegedly hushed it up. "It took a group of women to uncover this truth - and to finally speak it." Military historian Lynette Silver is discussing what happened to 22 Australian nurses who were marched into the sea at Bangka Island, Indonesia, and shot with machine guns in February 1942. All except one were killed. "That was a jolt to the senses enough. But to have been raped beforehand was just too awful a truth to speak," Ms Silver says, speaking of claims she details in a new book. "Senior Australian army officers wanted to protect grieving families from the stigma of rape. It was seen as shameful. Rape was known as a fate worse than death, and was still a hangable offence [for perpetrators] in New South Wales until 1955." Nurse Vivian Bullwinkel was shot in the massacre but survived by playing dead. She hid in the jungle and was taken as a prisoner of war, before eventually returning to Australia. She was "gagged" from speaking about the rapes at the Tokyo war crimes tribunal in the aftermath of World War Two, according to Ms Silver, who researched an account Ms Bullwinkel gave to a broadcaster before she died in 2000. "She was following orders," Ms Silver says. "In addition to the taboo, there was probably some guilt from the Australian government - senior officers knew Japanese troops had raped and murdered British nurses when the Japanese invaded Hong Kong in 1942, but were tardy in calls to evacuate the Australian nurses from Singapore." According to the Australian government, the perpetrators of the massacre remain unknown and "escaped any punishment for their crime". An Australian Defence Force spokesperson says a decision on whether a new investigation into these sexual assault claims will commence is up to the government, but that "new historic allegations can be reported by family" to a unit which investigates such crimes.
4-18-19 Nusrat Jahan Rafi: Burned to death for reporting sexual harassment
Nusrat Jahan Rafi was doused with kerosene and set on fire at her school in Bangladesh. Less than two weeks earlier, she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against her headmaster. Her courage in speaking out against sexual assault, her death five days after being set alight and everything that happened in-between has gripped Bangladesh and brought attention to the vulnerability of sexual harassment victims in this conservative South Asian country. Nusrat, who was 19, was from Feni, a small town 100 miles (160km) south of Dhaka. She was studying at a madrassa, or Islamic school. On 27 March, she said the headmaster called her into his office and repeatedly touched her in an inappropriate manner. Before things could go any further she ran out. Many girls and young women in Bangladesh choose to keep their experiences of sexual harassment or abuse secret for fear of being shamed by society or their families. What made Nusrat Jahan different is that she didn't just speak out - she went to the police with the help of her family on the day the alleged abuse happened. At the local police station she gave a statement. She should have been provided with a safe environment to recall her traumatic experiences. Instead she was filmed by the officer in charge on his phone as she described the ordeal. In the video Nusrat is visibly distressed and tries to hide her face with her hands. The policeman is heard calling the complaint "no big deal" and telling her to move her hands from her face. The video was later leaked to local media. Nusrat Jahan Rafi was from a small town, came from a conservative family, and went to a religious school. For a girl in her position, reporting sexual harassment can come with consequences. Victims often face judgement from their communities, harassment, in person and online, and in some cases violent attacks. Nusrat went on to experience all of these. On 27 March, after she went to the police, they arrested the headmaster. Things then got worse for Nusrat. A group of people gathered in the streets demanding his release. The protest had been arranged by two male students and local politicians were allegedly in attendance. People began to blame Nusrat. Her family say they started to worry about her safety. Nevertheless, on 6 April, 11 days after the alleged sexual assault, Nusrat went to her school to sit her final exams. According to a statement given by Nusrat, a fellow female student took her to the roof of the school, saying one of her friends was being beaten up. When Nusrat reached the rooftop four or five people, wearing burqas, surrounded her and allegedly pressured her to withdraw the case against the headmaster. When she refused, they set her on fire. Police Bureau of Investigation chief Banaj Kumar Majumder said the killers wanted "to make it look like a suicide". Their plan failed when Nusrat was rescued after they fled the scene. She was able to give a statement before she died. But when Nusrat was taken to a local hospital, doctors found burns covering 80% of her body. Unable to treat the burns, they sent her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. In the ambulance, fearing she might not survive, she recorded a statement on her brother's mobile phone. "The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath," you can hear her say. She also identified some of her attackers as students at the madrassa.
4-18-19 NZ ex-official guilty of hiding camera in embassy toilet
New Zealand's former top military official in the US has been found guilty of planting a secret camera in a unisex bathroom at the country's embassy in Washington DC. Alfred Keating faces up to 18 months in prison for attempting to make an intimate visual recording. Keating's DNA matched traces found on the SD card in the camera, which appeared to have been in place for many months. He will be sentenced on 25 June. Formerly in the Royal New Zealand Navy, Keating was the highest ranking official at New Zealand's US embassy when the camera was discovered in 2017. Because he was a foreign official, New Zealand was responsible for Mr Keating's trial, despite the offence taking place in the US. In April, Auckland District Court heard that the camera had been hidden in a heating duct, and was found by an embassy worker when it fell onto the floor. The man initially thought it was a memory drive, but then noticed a tiny camera lens and the brand of the camera, BrickHouse Security. Investigations of Keating's laptop showed he had accessed the website of BrickHouse security, a company which sells hidden video cameras. A homemade mount was also found taped under the radiator, covered in a layer of dust, suggesting the camera had been in place for some time. The camera was sent back to New Zealand for investigation by police, who found over 700 deleted files and 20 existing files on the memory card. They found 19 images of people using the bathroom over a period of five hours. Keating had pleaded not guilty to the charges. He also sought to have his name suppressed, arguing that revealing his identity would cause his family "extreme hardship". The request was dismissed.
4-17-19 Shamima Begum: Why women are terrorism's secret weapon
When women make the news because of terrorism, the focus has often been on their role as victims or as potential allies in countering the threat. By contrast, women who take part in and support extremism have sometimes been overlooked. This changed when runaway teen Shamima Begum was described as the "poster girl" for Islamic State after being tracked down at a Syrian refugee camp. Four years ago, she left the UK with two friends to join IS, but claims she was "just a housewife". Nevertheless, the UK home secretary stripped her of UK citizenship, saying: "If you back terror, there must be consequences". She is set to be granted legal aid to appeal the decision. Ms Begum's case has raised a number of questions on women's active and willing participation in violent extremism both in IS and other groups. Rusi analysis suggests that 17% of extremist recruits in Africa are women, while separate research has indicated 13% of IS foreign recruits in Iraq and Syria are female. The exact figures remain vague and could be far higher.A number of Rusi-backed studies and others have investigated the roles women play in organisations such as IS and al-Shabab, one of the deadliest militant groups in Africa. Researchers interviewed women who had been directly or indirectly involved with al-Shabab's activities, to find out how they were recruited, and the impact that taking part in violent extremist activity has on women. The work was conducted by academics in Kenya, who were able to use their long-standing experience and networks within communities identified to be at risk of radicalisation. Women in al-Shabab have often held what could be seen as more traditional roles, as wives of fighters and domestic help. They are also sometimes made to work as sex slaves. Within IS, women often recruit - especially online - and play an active role in projecting the group's beliefs.
4-12-19 Cult follower
Actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty this week to racketeering charges related to her participation in a sex cult. “I was lost,” said a sobbing Mack, 36, who starred in the superhero TV series Smallville until 2011. She recruited women into a secret sect within the Albany-based Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um), which advertises as a self-help program but allegedly forced some women to become sex slaves for the group’s leader, Keith Raniere. Prosecutors say those members were branded with Raniere’s initials and blackmailed with nude photos and other “potentially damaging or ruinous” material. Mack was among six people arrested last year for their roles in Nxivm, including Raniere, 58, and Clare Bronfman, heiress to the vast Seagram’s liquor fortune. Mack’s guilty plea doesn’t include the initial charges of sex trafficking, though she admitted to forcing women in Nxivm “to perform services for me” in slave-like conditions.
4-12-19 'I'm full of fear': Italian woman's story exposes rape law
It was early evening on 5 March when a 24-year-old woman ran into three men at a train station in Naples. The three men, whom she knew slightly, got into a lift with her. What happened during the next 12 minutes is now the subject of intense dispute. The men say they had consensual sex with the woman, but she says they raped her. A court is investigating. A colleague and I arranged to meet the young woman in a square in Rome. We did not know how we might recognise her. We came across a young, shockingly thin woman. She offered a timid handshake. Her lawyer, standing next to her, said that she was ready to talk and I asked several questions: "Speaking out is the only way to express my pain. Communicating is the best way of obtaining justice." "I'm a bit hurt. I'm full of fears. I'm scared and hurt." She fiddled with her handbag and tried to find a packet of tissues. "Initially they believed me - the lawyers, and the psychologists at the Naples hospital. The violence was also obvious in the medical test. Also the policemen believed and the prosecutors' office. But the appeals court has decided to free two of these guys." "It's not that it concerns me. It terrifies me. They know the place where I live, because on a previous occasion they had followed me to my house. I'm scared, I think they may want a vendetta." A court has ordered the release of all three defendants pending a full trial. The BBC obtained a copy of the tribunal's 24-page ruling. The document goes into great detail about the woman's medical history of eating disorders, depression, and alleged abuse at the hands of her father. The court says: "The combination of the victim's conditions leads us to judge that she is untrustworthy - and hence her version of events cannot be relied upon - on its own." It adds that she has a "histrionic personality". But her defenders argue that her medical history cannot be used to say that she makes things up. (Webmaster's comment: The idea that a woman would want simultaneous sex with 3 men she hardly knows in a public setting is just so much Male Brute Bullshit!)
4-9-19 Nxivm: Actress Allison Mack pleads guilty in 'sex cult' case
US actress Allison Mack has pleaded guilty to charges linked to an alleged sex trafficking operation disguised as a mentoring group. Appearing in Brooklyn federal court, Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges related to the suspected sex cult Nxivm. In a statement, Mack admitted to recruiting women by telling them they were joining a female mentorship group. "I must take full responsibility for my conduct", she said. Mack, known for the US television series Smallville, is one of six people facing criminal charges as part of an investigation into Nxivm. Nxivm, pronounced 'nexium', is a group that started in 1998 as a self-help programme and says it has worked with more than 16,000 people including the son of a former Mexican president and Hollywood actresses such as Mack. On its website Nxivm describes itself as a "community guided by humanitarian principles that seek to empower people and answer important questions about what it means to be human". Despite its tagline of "working to build a better world", its leader Keith Raniere stands accused of overseeing a "slave and master" system within the group. According to the group's website, it has suspended enrolment and events because of the "extraordinary circumstances facing the company at this time". Prosecutors allege the group mirrors a pyramid scheme, in which members paid thousands of dollars for courses to rise within its ranks. Mr Raniere is alleged to be at the top of this structure as the only man, but Mack served as one of his top female deputies. Female recruits were allegedly branded with Mr Raniere's initials and expected to have sex with him, as part of the system.
4-8-19 Kodak Black 'sorry' for Nipsey Hussle girlfriend comment
Kodak Black has apologised for saying he planned to romantically pursue actress Lauren London following the death of her boyfriend Nipsey Hussle. "I'll be the best man I can be for her," the rapper said of Lauren London, adding that he'd give her "a whole year" to grieve for Nipsey. He's faced backlash from the likes of T.I and The Game - and had his music banned from a prominent LA radio station - following the comments. His apology has also been criticised. "If I disrespected you Lauren London in any shape or form, I am sorry," the 21-year-old rapper said on Instagram Live, before adding: "Even though I didn't." "Rest in peace to dude [Nipsey Hussle]. If I disrespected Lauren London in any way, even though I know I didn't, my bad," he reiterated later in the video. Both T.I and The Game recorded videos calling Kodak Black out following his initial comments. And Power 106, one of the biggest radio stations in Los Angeles, said it would no longer be playing his tracks. But for some people, the reaction to his comments has come at a strange time. The Florida rapper, real name Dieuson Octave, is waiting to stand trial in South Carolina after being charged with an alleged sexual assault there in 2016. The trial has been delayed, but, if convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison. He's also been criticised for using homophobic lyrics referencing rapper Young M.A on a song released earlier this year. (Webmaster's comment: Women are prey and this sexual predator wants to keep rivals away.)
4-5-19 NRA opposes Violence Against Women Act
The National Rifle Association announced last week that it would oppose reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, objecting to a change that would make it harder for domestic abusers to buy and own firearms. The proposed update to the landmark 1994 law would close the so-called boyfriend loophole by barring those convicted of abusing, assaulting, or stalking a dating partner from buying or owning guns; the current law applies only to spouses and family members. The NRA will issue a “key vote” alert, warning members of Congress that their vote will be counted toward their NRA ratings. NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said, “Nancy Pelosi and her minions of anti-gun zealots” had added “a gun control poison pill to an otherwise good bill.”
4-4-19 Belgium apology for mixed-race kidnappings in colonial era
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has apologised for the kidnapping of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples during colonial rule in Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda. The "métis" children born to Belgian settlers and local women were forcibly taken to Belgium and fostered by Catholic orders and other institutions. About 20,000 children are believed to have been affected. Most fathers refused to acknowledge the paternity of their children. The children were born in the 1940s and 1950s and taken to Belgium from 1959 until the independence of each of the three colonies. Some of the children never received Belgian nationality and remained stateless. Speaking in the Belgian parliament, Mr Michel said the country had breached the children's basic human rights, seeing them as a threat to the colonial sysem. It had, he said, stripped them of their identity, stigmatised them and split up siblings. "I vow that this solemn moment will represent a further step towards awareness and recognition of this part of our national history," he said in his statement. Many of the mixed-race children had gone on to help Belgium become a "more open and tolerant society", the prime minister added. He also expressed Belgian compassion for the "African mothers whose children were snatched from them". Two years ago, the Catholic Church apologised for its role in the scandal. Last year, Belgian MPs called on the government to help the affected children find their biological parents and also gain Belgian nationality. Meanwhile, their mothers have also been searching for their children. The groups miXed2020 and Métis de Belgique say many of the kidnapped children "suffered deeply" as a result of their experience. Many still had no access to birth records and remained unable to find their mothers or their Belgian fathers, who, the groups said, were often well-known figures. (Webmaster's comment: Brute white males raping black women is still a worldwide problem!)
4-4-19 Pakistan Asma Aziz: Wife who had 'head shaved for refusing to dance'
A Pakistani woman has publicly accused her husband of beating her and shaving her head for refusing to dance for him and his friends, in a case that has raised new concerns about women's safety in the country. Asma Aziz, from Lahore, made headlines when she published a shocking video on social media showing her shaven head and bruised face. Her husband, Mian Faisal, and a servant are both in police custody. Mr Faisal has denied torture. However, the case has prompted calls for more to be done to protect women from domestic violence. In a tweet, Amnesty International said "systemic change" was necessary. In her video posted on 26 March, an emotional Ms Aziz alleged that two days earlier she was tortured after refusing to dance in front of her husband's friends who were at their house in Lahore's upmarket Defence Housing Authority (DHA) district. "He took my clothes off in front of his servants. The servants held me as he shaved my hair off and burned it. My clothes were bloody. I was bound by a pipe and hung from the fan. He threatened to hang me naked," she said. She said she went to the police to file a complaint but they procrastinated - the police deny the allegation, saying that immediately after Ms Aziz's visit to the police station a team was dispatched to her residence but it was found locked and the DHA management prevented them from entering the premises. Police acted only after the video came to the notice of Deputy Minister for Interior, Sheheryar Afridi, who ordered officers to register a complaint. Mr Faisal and the servant, Rashid Ali, were arrested the following day. A preliminary medical report found multiple bruises, swelling and redness on Ms Aziz's arms, cheeks and around her left eye. Ms Aziz's lawyers later pleaded that the case be tried under the stricter anti-terrorism law instead of the usual criminal procedure.
4-2-19 Joe Biden: Second woman accuses ex-VP of unwanted touching
A second woman has accused former US Vice-President Joe Biden of inappropriate touching, as the leading Democrat mulls a White House bid. Amy Lappos said Mr Biden had touched her face with both hands and rubbed noses with her a decade ago. The allegation comes after another women, Lucy Flores, said Mr Biden kissed her on the back of her head at a campaign event. Mr Biden has said he did not believe he has ever acted inappropriately. The former Delaware senator, who served as Barack Obama's vice-president in 2009-17, is seen as a possible front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Some leading Democrats have publicly supported Ms Flores, while House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the allegations should not rule out a 2020 run. Ms Lappos, a 43-year-old former aide to a Democratic congressman, said Mr Biden touched her inappropriately at a fundraiser in a private home in Hartford, Connecticut, in 2009. She told the Hartford Courant the then vice-president entered the kitchen to thank a group of aides, before wrapping both hands around Ms Lappos' face and pulling her in to rub noses with her. Ms Lappos called on Mr Biden not to run for the White House, saying: "Uninvited affection is not okay. Objectifying women is not okay." (Webmaster's comment: But remember what Trump did to women and look where he is now!)
4-1-19 Joe Biden denies Lucy Flores's misconduct allegations
Former Vice-President Joe Biden has denied allegations of misconduct ahead of his widely-expected announcement of a presidential run. Lucy Flores, a former Nevada Assembly member, says Mr Biden kissed her on the back of her head at a campaign event. "I had never experienced anything so blatantly inappropriate," she wrote. Mr Biden said he had shown "expressions of affection" to people over the years, adding "not once - never - did I believe I acted inappropriately". "If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully," he said. Serving as Barack Obama's vice-president for eight years and in the US Senate for nearly four decades, Mr Biden is seen as a possible frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination even though he has not announced his candidacy. The allegations first appeared on Friday in an article Ms Flores wrote for The Cut magazine. Ms Flores was running as the Democratic candidate for Nevada's lieutenant governor in 2014 when the then-vice president flew in to support her bid. As she prepared to go on stage, Ms Flores say Mr Biden placed two hands on her shoulders from behind. "I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified," she wrote. "He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head. My brain couldn't process what was happening." Mr Biden's spokesman Bill Russo initially said neither the vice-president nor his staff had any idea that "Ms Flores had been at any time uncomfortable, nor do they recall what she describes". But on Sunday Mr Biden issued a statement himself, and promised to "pay attention" to Ms Flores - while reiterating he did not remember the incident. "In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once - never - did I believe I acted inappropriately," it read.