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May 18, 2018

Canadian psychology professor and popular men's rights activist Jordan Peterson blames violent attacks by men on the fact that they do not have wives, The New York Times writes in a profile of Peterson published Friday. Peterson made the comment while explaining the actions of 25-year-old Alex Minassian last month, who drove a van down a crowded sidewalk in Toronto, killing 10 and injuring 16.

"He was angry at God because women were rejecting him," Peterson told the Times' Nellie Bowles. Minassian was a self-proclaimed "involuntary celibate," or "incel," and Peterson added that "the cure" for male-perpetrated violence "is enforced monogamy. That's actually why monogamy emerges."

Bowles writes:

Mr. Peterson does not pause when he says this. Enforced monogamy is, to him, simply a rational solution. Otherwise women will all only go for the most high-status men, he explains, and that couldn't make either gender happy in the end. [The New York Times]

Peterson additionally defended the "existence" of witches when Bowles told him they don't actually exist. "Yeah, they do. They do exist," he said. "They just don't exist the way you think they exist. They certainly exist. You may say well dragons don't exist … You say, 'Well, there's no such thing as witches.' Yeah, I know what you mean, but that isn't what you think when you go see a movie about them." Read the full mind-boggling profile at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

May 11, 2018
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On Monday, The New Yorker published a bombshell report alleging New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) physically and verbally abused four women while they were in romantic relationships with him. The report seemed to oddly confirm a tweet by President Trump from September 2013, when he said: "[Anthony] Weiner is gone, [Eliot] Spitzer is gone — next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman. Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner." On Friday, a strange court filing surfaced that appeared to explain how Trump evidently knew of the allegations against Schneiderman.

Lawyer Peter J. Gleason claims in the letter dated Friday that "some years ago," his law office was approached "by two unrelated women who at two separate times (approximately one year apart) claimed that Mr. Schneiderman was sexually inappropriate with them." Gleason told the women that "the very entities that were established to protect [them] would ultimately turn on [them] to protect the power elite," but adds that "at a minimum, I wanted these women to realize that somebody believed them."

Per a copy of the letter published by BuzzFeed News, Gleason then says he discussed the allegations with retired journalist Stephen Dunleavy:

[Dunleavy] suggested and offered to discuss the matter with Donald Trump. Mr. Dunleavy did indeed discuss this very matter with Trump as evidenced by a phone call I received from attorney Michael Cohen. During my communications with Mr. Cohen I shared with him certain details of Schneiderman's vile attacks on these two women.

Gleason's filing specifically asks that "the court issue a protective order and seal any and all correspondence that Mr. Cohen may have memorialized regarding our communications" about the two women. Cohen's office and home were raided in early April, an indirect consequence of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing Russia investigation. Read the full filing here. Jeva Lange

May 7, 2018
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Transparent actor Jeffrey Tambor gave his first interview to The Hollywood Reporter after being accused by his former assistant and an actress on the series, both of whom are transgender women, of sexual harassment. "I drove myself and my castmates crazy," Tambor recalled of his time on Transparent, before he was fired in February. "Lines got blurred. I was difficult. I was mean."

Tambor's former assistant, Van Barnes, was the first to come forward as the #MeToo movement picked up steam. Barnes accused Tambor of giving her "butt pats" and making comments like, "why aren't I taking care of him sexually." Tambor released a statement after Barnes' allegations, calling her a "disgruntled assistant."

"I think that was generous of me," Tambor told THR looking back. "I dispute her account. I did raise my voice at times, I was moody at times, there were times when I was tactless. But as for the other stuff, absolutely not."

After Barnes came forward, actress Trace Lysette accused Tambor of flirtation — "kisses on the forehead, which was awkward" — which escalated into inappropriate behavior when they were filming a breakfast scene and he told her, "My God, Trace, I want to attack you sexually."

At the time, the allegations prompted Faith Soloway, a writing producer on Transparent and the older sister of creator Jill Soloway, to write Tambor an email of support. Reflecting on her comments now, Soloway said: "In the moment I felt that Jill and Jeffrey were under attack. I knew that some people disapproved of Jeffrey, a cisgender actor, playing Maura … I also sent messages of support to Trace and Van, and after the allegations were presented, I never disbelieved them."

Tambor told The Hollywood Reporter: "People change. It's already changed my behavior on set … You know what I do feel? More present. Everything's just clearer to me." Read the entire interview at The Hollywood Reporter. Jeva Lange

May 7, 2018

Essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates weighed in on the controversy surrounding Kanye West's support of President Trump on Monday with a powerful essay in The Atlantic touching on Michael Jackson, slavery, and his own struggles with the "weight of celebrity."

Coates recalls hearing West for the first time in 2001, writing that "all I can say is that when I heard Kanye, I felt myself back in communion with something that I felt had been lost, a sense of ancestry in every sample, a sound that went back to the separated and unequal, that went back to the slave." Coates, though, ties West to another "black god dying to be white," Michael Jackson, and writes that "we suffer for this, because we are connected. Michael Jackson did not just destroy his own face, but endorsed the destruction of all those made in similar fashion."

Coates additionally shuts down West's defense of his opinions in the face of "thought police."

West calls his struggle the right to be a "free thinker," and he is, indeed, championing a kind of freedom — a white freedom, freedom without consequence, freedom without criticism, freedom to be proud and ignorant; freedom to profit off a people in one moment and abandon them in the next; a Stand Your Ground freedom, freedom without responsibility, without hard memory; a Monticello without slavery, a Confederate freedom, the freedom of John C. Calhoun, not the freedom of Harriet Tubman, which calls you to risk your own; not the freedom of Nat Turner, which calls you to give even more, but a conqueror's freedom … [The Atlantic]

Read Coates' entire essay, including his own reckoning with celebrity, at The Atlantic. Jeva Lange

April 19, 2018

Time released its annual list of the 100 most influential people of the year Thursday, and to no surprise, the Parkland activists are featured under the subcategory "pioneers." What might be a bit more surprising is that the blurb praising the work of David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, and Alex Wind was written by the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.

"The Parkland, Florida, students don't have the kind of lobbyists or big budgets for attack ads that their opponents do," Obama writes. "Most of them can't even vote yet. But they have the power so often inherent in youth: to see the world anew; to reject the old constraints, outdated conventions, and cowardice too often dressed up as wisdom." Obama goes on:

[B]y bearing witness to carnage, by asking tough questions and demanding real answers, the Parkland students are shaking us out of our complacency. The NRA's favored candidates are starting to fear they might lose. Law-abiding gun owners are starting to speak out. As these young leaders make common cause with African-Americans and Latinos — the disproportionate victims of gun violence — and reach voting age, the possibilities of meaningful change will steadily grow. [Time]

Read the full blurb at the Time 100 list here. Jeva Lange

April 9, 2018

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz published a powerful New Yorker article Monday that grapples with the trauma of being raped as a child. "I never told anyone what happened, but today I'm telling you," Díaz writes.

The piece is addressed to an anonymous "X" who asked Díaz — the author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This Is How You Lose Her — about the sexual abuse in his books, and if it had happened to him. Díaz writes that he was "too scared in those days to say anything" and that he "responded with some evasive bulls--t" to X's question. Years later, "I think about silence; I think about shame, I think about loneliness," Díaz reflects. "I think about the hurt I caused."

Díaz writes that there are "not enough pages in the world to describe what it did to me," adding that "more than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me." Despite putting on a mask, and despite his "silence," Díaz says:

The nightmares, the intrusions, the hiding, the doubts, the confusion, the self-blame, the suicidal ideation — they didn't go away just because I buried my neighborhood, my family, my face. The nightmares, the intrusions, the hiding, the doubts, the confusion, the self-blame, the suicidal ideation — they followed. All through college. All through graduate school. All through my professional life. All through my intimate life. (Leaked into my writing, too, but you'd be amazed how easy it is to rewrite the truth away.)

Didn't matter how far I ran or what I achieved or who I was with — they followed. [The New Yorker]

Read his entire piece at The New Yorker. Jeva Lange

April 2, 2018
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A group of individuals linked to financier Dan K. Rapoport has apparently been operating under the persona of a character named "David Jewberg," an "American soldier, analyst, military history specialist, officer of the U.S. Army, political consultant of the U.S. State Department, Department of Defense, and National Security analyst," citizen journalist investigative website Bellingcat has found.

Although "Jewberg" has often been quoted as being a Pentagon insider by Ukrainian and Russian media, he is evidently a fake composite character and "the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department have disavowed [his existence], stating that they have never employed a person by this name," Bellingcat writes. Nevertheless, painstaking efforts have been made to convince Ukrainian and Russian opposition figures of Jewberg's existence, including fake biographical details such as that he was born in Ohio to parents "Tammy" and "Joe."

"Jewberg" is best known for running a popular Facebook page used to post anti-Kremlin, anti-Trump sentiments in the Russian language. Jewberg also posted photos and identification cards in an attempt to attest that he was real, although all such evidence actually featured the photograph of a Texan man named Steve Farro — a college friend of Rapoport's.

Rapoport, who was born in the Soviet Union before moving with his parents to Texas in 1978, also apparently tried to verify Jewberg's existence, posting old photos of himself with Farro and claiming the man was actually Jewberg. Rapoport eventually moved to Kiev, Ukraine, from Washington, D.C., in late 2016, and now works abroad as the head of the venture capital firm Rapoport Capital LLC. His vacated D.C. mansion is now occupied by Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.

"What is not clear is why [Jewberg's] persona was invented with a ridiculous last name, using the face of a man in Texas," concludes Bellingcat. Read the full investigation here. Jeva Lange

March 27, 2018
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HLN host S.E. Cupp begged first lady Melania Trump to set an example for "a generation of young girls" and divorce her husband, President Trump, in an op-ed published Tuesday at the New York Daily News.

Cupp likens the current situation — in which Donald Trump stands accused of having an affair with an adult film star in 2006, while married to Melania — to reports of former President Bill Clinton's affairs in 1992. "Over those years, Hillary [Clinton] became for me what she became for many women — the literal definition of 'Stand by Your Man,'" Cupp argues. "While feminists trotted her out as a role model for strong women, all I saw was a woman who was humiliated time and again and, for reasons either personal or political, decided to take it."

Cupp goes on to claim that Melania should not "repeat Hillary's mistake" by staying with her husband. "While it's hard to imagine she didn't know who she married, she's also just a woman, wife, and mother like the rest of us," Cupp writes. "There's a real person in there, and she must be reeling."

Melania Trump is reportedly "quite enjoying" her "spring break" at Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, while her husband returned to Washington, D.C., this weekend, a spokesperson said. Read Cupp's full argument for why Melania Trump should get a divorce at the New York Daily News here. Jeva Lange

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