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Activists React To Hollywood’s Silence During Johnny Depp Trial: “Where Are You and Why Are You Not Supporting Amber Heard?”



At the height of the Time’s Up movement, stars rallied in support of women during high-profile cases against the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. The absence of such solidarity today has some #MeToo proponents worried about the future of the movement.

It may seem that every TikTokker, cable news commentator and chatterbox neighbor has an opinion about the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation trial that concluded Wednesday in Virginia. But for many sexual violence survivors, there has been a noteworthy absence from the conversation: Hollywood. While major stars and the industry activist group Time’s Up mobilized around other high-profile #MeToo cases like Harvey Weinstein’s and Bill Cosby’s, there has been no such movement around the Depp-Heard trial, which involves allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault. (Depp said multiple times on the stand that he has never struck a woman, denied Heard’s allegation of sexual battery and called himself a victim of domestic abuse by Heard, which she denies.)

“Every single person who wore a Time’s Up pin on the red carpet of the Golden Globes, my question to you is, where are you and why are you not supporting Amber Heard?” says Alison Turkos, an activist and sexual assault survivor who organized an open letter to Time’s Up last August when it was revealed that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought advice from top Time’s Up officials after he was accused of sexual harassment. “Why are you not willing to risk your power or privilege? It is very easy for your stylist to put a pin on your outfit and for you to walk the red carpet. Now is the time for you to show up for survivors.”

The Depp-Heard case differs from the Weinstein and Cosby ones in key ways: Depp has alleged that he, too, is a victim of abuse in the relationship; Heard is a lone victim, not part of a group who came forward; and Depp’s fan base has been vocal online, creating memes and hashtags that criticize Heard and cast doubt on her testimony. Nevertheless, Depp was widely expected to lose the case.

Time’s Up is also no longer the force it was during those trials. Its board has dissolved and two CEOs resigned last year in the months after the Cuomo scandal exploded. And while the group had provided pro bono PR for victims during the Weinstein trial and supplied press with information about sexual assault, it has not so much as tweeted about Depp and Heard. Neither have women who were among Time’s Up’s most notable members, like Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes.

The Depp-Heard defamation trial began April 11, and for several weeks prominent activists stayed largely silent about it. On May 28, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke issued a statement on Instagram saying that the cause was being co-opted and manipulated during the trial and calling press coverage “one of the biggest defamations of the movement we have ever seen.” In the caption, Burke said she and her organization “have been harassed nonstop about [the trial] — mostly by people wanting us to ‘pick a side’ in the case.” A longer statement posted on the organization’s website said that the Depp-Heard trial was “not about sexual violence at its core.”

“The stunning silence says it all,” says singer and actress Melissa Schuman, who alleged in 2017 that Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter raped her in 2003 when she was a member of the teen-girl band Dream. Carter denied the allegation, the Los Angeles district attorney declined to prosecute because the statute of limitations had expired, and Schuman became the object of online vitriol from Backstreet Boys fans, similar to the type that Depp fans have unleashed on Heard. “[The silence] is used against Heard, like, ‘Look, she is not believed.’ Nobody is willing to put their life on the line. There’s no benefit to speaking up in support of a survivor speaking out against power.”

Another entertainment industry woman who was on the brink of coming forward with an allegation of sexual assault against a man who works in Hollywood says watching the trial has given her pause. “What this shows me is that all my worst fears are true,” she says. “The reason I don’t ever want to go public is that I’m afraid I’ll be treated like Amber Heard.”

Depp’s filing of a defamation lawsuit against Heard is an increasingly common legal tool in #MeToo cases, one that is replacing the nondisclosure agreement, which new laws in states including California have begun to limit. “The use of defamation lawsuits has become a perfected art in certain industries,” says former California State Sen. Joseph Dunn, a lecturer at the University of California at Irvine School of Law and an attorney who handles clients with sexual assault allegations. “It frankly is just another tool of cover-up.”

Many who work with sexual assault victims say the Depp-Heard trial, and the public’s reaction to it, may have a chilling effect on victims’ willingness to speak out about abuse.

“What I’m seeing played out is an imbalance of power,” says Louise Godbold, a Weinstein accuser and executive director of the nonprofit group Echo, which conducts training on the subject of trauma. “[The power imbalance] created conditions ripe for abuse, it gave rise to the defamation suit to threaten and silence the victim, and is now being used to manipulate public opinion and gaslight the world into believing the abuser is the victim. And it’s working.”

After the jury issued its verdict Wednesday finding both Heard and Depp liable for defamation, but awarding significantly more damages to Depp, one prominent entertainment industry group did issue a statement.

“We are deeply concerned the Depp-Heard decision will set precedent exacerbating barriers victims face in coming forward,” tweeted Women in Film, an entertainment industry advocacy organization founded in 1973. “The trial and its reception demonstrated a regressive trend of retaliation against those who speak out about violence or abuse perpetrated by those in power.”

The group shared the phone number for its helpline, offered resources for people of any gender who have experienced sexual harassment or misconduct while working in the entertainment industry, and said, “We’re here for you.”

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Lomé Will, Again, Host WHO’s African Regional Committee Meeting




Lomé, the Togolese capital, will host the 72nd session of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) African Regional Committee from 22 to 26 August.

This was revealed by the Minister of Health, Public Hygiene, and Universal Access to Health Care, during the Council of Ministers held on August 3, 2022.

“This choice attests to the efforts and progress made by our country, under the leadership of the Head of State, in the field of public health,” the government said. “The Council welcomed this choice and encouraged all ministers to be actively involved for the success of this regional meeting,”it added.

According to the provisional agenda of WHO Africa, the meeting, in hybrid format, will be structured on 5 pillars. It will address issues such as the Regional Strategy for the control of serious non-communicable diseases in primary health care facilities, the framework for strengthening the implementation of the global action plan for mental health, protection against financial risks for universal health coverage in the WHO African Region, a framework for integrated control, elimination and eradication of tropical and vector-borne diseases in the African Region 2022-2030, or the strengthening of the UN agency, for more effective and efficient support to African countries

Togo hosted (via videoconference) the previous session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa.

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South African Minister Accuses West of ‘Bullying’ On Ukraine




U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and South African Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor appear at a joint press conference after meeting together in Pretoria, South Africa, on Aug. 8, 2022.

South African Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor accused the West of sometimes taking a patronizing and bullying attitude toward Africa, as she hosted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the first leg of his Africa visit. Pandor made it clear that South Africa has different views from the U.S. on Ukraine, China, and Israel and the Palestinians.

At a joint press conference in the South African capital, Blinken stressed he was not on his three-country tour of the continent in order to counter Moscow and Beijing’s growing influence in the region, as has been widely speculated, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited last month.

“Our commitment to a stronger partnership with Africa is not about trying to outdo anyone else,” Blinken said.

Blinken spoke, too, about U.S. support of Ukraine, saying Russia’s invasion was an aggression against the entire international order.
South Africa has remained neutral on the conflict with Russia, its partner in the BRICS group of countries, and abstained from any U.N. votes on the matter, though Pandor said the country “abhorred” war and would like to see an end to the conflict.

However, she said the different approaches by the international community to different conflicts sometimes “leads to cynicism about international bodies.” She referenced the plight of the Palestinians.

“Just as much as the people of Ukraine deserve their territory and freedom, the people of Palestine deserve their territory and freedom,” she said, “and we should be equally concerned at what is happening to the people of Palestine as we are with what is happening to the people of Ukraine. We’ve not seen an even-handed approach.”

Pandor added that while it didn’t come from Blinken, South Africa had experienced pressure from some in the West to align with its policy on Ukraine. She also appeared to criticize the U.S. bill passed in April, “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act,” which has been seen by some on the continent as a vehicle to punish African countries that have not toed the line on Ukraine.

“From some of our partners in Europe and elsewhere, there has been a sense of patronizing bullying — ‘You choose this or else.’ And the recent legislation passed in the United States of America by the House of Representatives, we found a most unfortunate bill.”

Bob Wekesa, director of the African Center for the Study of the United States, said Pandor’s candid remarks at the press conference showed the closed-door meeting between the U.S. and South African sides “must have been a very difficult one.”

“I think the U.S. is attempting to figure out how to get South Africa on to its side, but South Africa is not coming to the party,” Wekesa said.

Blinken was in Pretoria to launch the new U.S. Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa, which focuses on areas such as climate change, trade, health and food insecurity.

During his remarks Monday, he also criticized Beijing for its strong reaction to House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Pandor would not comment specifically on Taiwan but did say South Africa did not want to be made party to a conflict between China and the U.S.

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Man Who Killed His 2-Day Old Daughter For Crying Too Much Found Dead In His Prison Cell




Trigger Warning: This story mentions child abuse and infanticide which may be disturbing to readers.

Newborn babies cry a lot, in fact, that is how they communicate. But, when a two-day-old baby wouldn’t stop crying, an infuriated father punched her in the face, so hard that she died.

Karen Bissett, 21, the child’s mother had left the child with her father, Liam Deane, when she went to get some sleep on July 10, 2017. Since Luna wouldn’t stop crying while Bissett was away, he shook her hard; punching her in the face, and squeezing her body and arms, reports BBC.

Despite suffering grave injuries, the father did nothing. The next day, he informed Luna’s mother that she was struggling to breathe and lied that she fell from the bed while sleeping at night. The two-day-old was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary where she died in intensive care on July 14.

According to a doctor, Luna died as a result of head trauma, which left her with “catastrophic brain injuries.”

When questioned by police, Deane broke down and admitted that he was the one who attacked the infant. During Deane’s trial, prosecutor Michael Smith stated that the infant suffered damage to her brain, body, and face.

Smith said, “He said he was responsible for all of the injuries that she had suffered and he said that Luna had not settled down and he lost control.” The then 22-year-old father was given a life sentence with a minimum of 10 years in prison in October 2017.

But unfortunately, fate had other plans for him. You see, just months after receiving his sentence, Dean was found dead in his prison cell in IMP Leeds on 12 November 2017. Fellow inmate John Westland, who was serving a sentence for rape and grievous bodily harm, was arrested and given a minimum of 19 years in prison, as he was responsible for the murder of the father.

During the trial, judge Rodney Jameson QC told Westland, “You told the jury that you believed Liam Deane was a sex offender, but he was not. He had committed a very serious crime, but had admitted it from the first and was trying to come to terms with what he had done.”

“It is an unfortunate consequence of life in prison than those who are themselves guilty of serious offenses, as you were, will find another inmate to look down on. Given the nature of your own conviction, some might find that to be rank hypocrisy,” said Judge Jameson.

Then, Westland revealed that because of the nature of Deane’s conviction, he was frequently referred to as a “baby killer” around the jail, and he received daily threats and taunts. He also claimed that his cellmate was in debt to other inmates.

During the week-long trial, jurors heard that the convict killed his cellmate with a broken bottle of aftershave and that the victim had shown symptoms of asphyxiation caused by pressure on his head and face.

Even though Deane’s crime of killing his infant daughter was termed as “an appalling crime that tore her family apart” by West Yorkshire Police, they believed that he was entitled to his right of serving his time in prison.

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