Monday, December 21, 2009

Heroine: Jamie Leigh Jones

WASHINGTON — Four years ago, Jamie Leigh Jones, a 20-year old Texas contract employee working in Iraq, was drugged, stripped, beaten and gang-raped by her co-workers on her fourth day in country. She finally managed to get a phone call out from the shipping container where she was being detained — by her employer, KBR, then a Halliburton company.

That call to her father led to a call to her congressman, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and her rescue after Poe had the State Department locate her. But Jones' attempts at justice — and restitution — were blocked by a little-noticed compulsory arbitration clause in the contracts of private employees working for federal government contractors.

Now, a move by Congress last week, jump-started by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would protect contract employees by ensuring they have legal recourse.

The provision is in the defense appropriations bill that the Senate approved Saturday after the House passed it Wednesday. It only needs the president's signature to become law.

"This amendment makes all the hard times that I have gone through, when going public with such a personal tragedy, worth every tear shed from telling and retelling my horrific experience," Jones said after the Senate first acted on the bill in October. Jones most recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October: "I know this amendment will save so many in the future."

Jones herself is not directly affected by the amendment. But after a hard-fought four-year battle, she won the right to sue her attackers and the company under a ruling in September by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Her case is expected to go to trial next year.

"The congressional amendment tracks the Fifth Circuit decision," said Poe. For Poe, a former Texas district judge who chairs the House's Victims' Rights Caucus and who has been one of Jones' strongest advocates, the new law is a milestone.

Under the congressionally approved provision, the federal government would not be able to do business with companies with $1 million or more in contracts that deny court hearings for victims of assault, false imprisonment or emotional distress. Victims of assault would be able to sue the employers of the alleged attacker, as well as the attacker. The Defense Department can apply a waiver for national security reasons.

Jones, now married and with a child — who she named after Poe — is a teacher, lives in a Houston suburb and advocates for victims through a foundation that bears her name.

Franken was the prime mover behind the legislation, which came about this fall after he was moved by her story.

"Jamie Leigh Jones is a strong, courageous woman, who used her own horrific experience to inspire change," said Franken in a statement.

"I am honored to know her, and honored to have been a part of her cause," Franken said. "I came to Washington to stand up for folks like Jamie Leigh, and stand up to the powerful interests that too often silence their voices."

The provision had a contentious debate in the Senate, where it passed in October 68-30 — engendering a vocal critique of the 30 all white, all male "no" voters, including Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court judge, said that he was a strong advocate for victims but he was opposed to a provision that would benefit trial lawyers.

All 17 female senators voted for the amendment.

"This kind of violent crime should not be obscured by politics or partisanship," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. "The fact is, a Texas woman serving our country in Iraq was brutally sexually assaulted. She deserves to have her day in court."

See original article

Friday, December 18, 2009

W Magazine - Run of Show

What an epic editorial in the January 2010 W Magazine! Shot over two days by Craig McDean at Bath House Studios, and styled by W's own Alex White; Next has Katie Fogarty, Rasa, and Shu-Pei in the lineup.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Catherine McNeil - British Vogue

Catherine McNeil was photographed by Patrick Demarchelier in Sag Harbor, NY for the January 2010 issue of British Vogue.

Malgosia Bela - MaxMara Campaign

Spring/Summer 2010 campaigns are already coming in?! OK!
Here's Malgosia Bela in the new MaxMara campaign, photographed by Mario Sorrenti in NYC.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Valerija - Cover Magazine

Valerija in the new December/January issue of Denmark's COVER Magazine, photographed by Kacper Kasprzyk and styled by Karolina Isomaki.

Kendra Spears - Chinese Vogue Cover

Kendra was shot by Lachlan Bailey at South Coast Botanical Gardens in Orange County, CA for the cover of the January 2010 Chinese Vogue...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Myf - 10 Magazine

Myf is in the new 10 Magazine, photographed by Vanina Sorrenti in NYC.

Abbey Lee - Numero & Muse Covers

Today is Abbey Lee's big cover day... Covers of Numero by Liz Collins and Muse by Greg Kadel both appeared on European newsstands! It's like an early Christmas for Miss Kershaw.

Veronica Varekova - Rwanda

As seen on Global Grind:

From Cover Girl To Saving The World

As newly appointed Goodwill Ambassadors, Ben Stein and I went on our first official trip with the African Wildlife Foundation. Because 2009 was declared "The Year of the Gorilla" by the U.N., we thought it was appropriate to begin our mission in Rwanda.It was an incredible experience! First day in Kigali (the capital of Rwanda) we visited The Genocide Memorial Center. The people of Rwanda are proud of where they stand today. But the reality of genocide is still very much part of their everyday life. The horrific stories and memories of those we met in The Genocide Memorial Center just left us speechless.

However, the focus is on the future of Rwanda, not the past. This is a country with a stable political environment and enormous dedication and patriotism. The discrimination or division of ethnicity between Hutus and Tutsis has no place in their lives today. They all said to me: "Today we are simply Rwandans." A nd I had so much respect for that simplicity!We also experienced a taste of Kigali's nightlife and we had so much fun! We had a fantastic dinner at the restaurant "The Republika" and later we went dancing at "The B-club." I thought I knew how to dance, but soon I was taught by one of our new friends "Manzi" how to do the "African move" properly. I realize today, it will take many more dancing lessons, before I can go back to The B-club.

The following day was very exciting. With minor headaches, we were headed to The Virunga National Park. It took us a few hours to get there, but to my surprise the road was in good condition. The landscape is just breathtaking. For good reason Rwanda is called "the land of a thousand hills." It is very green, clean, and rich in agriculture! They plant crops on every open inch of hills and the soil is very rich in nutrients.We finally made it to our destination. The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is located right below one of the 5 volcanoes in the area, Sabyinyo volcano. It was built two years ago with the help of AWF, USAID, and other partners.
The next morning we went to track the mountain gorillas. It was 5:30am and we were up and going. I thought there was a very slim chance for us to find them as there is only 750 of them today, spread between Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. But the rangers of the National Park have a great system in place and do this every day. So after two hours we got lucky! For the first time in my life I saw a mountain gorilla! And it was magical!

Yes, I was scared at one point because you get so close to them! But after awhile you realize they are peaceful creatures. The babies were very playful. The Silverback, largest male gorilla in the group, is very calm, yet always observing. He sits like the king. They eat so much! All the time! You can feel they physical power as they break the bamboo shoots. But their facial expressions are tender and on occasion flirtatious.

We had three days with three different mountain gorilla groups. They all behaved differently. I felt like Dianne Fossey at times.We have learned so much! One of the people who shared with us the most incredible stories about gorillas was AWF's own Craig Sholley. He is a wildlife biologist and conservationist who is renowned for his work with the International Mountain Gorilla Project in Rwanda. As mountain gorillas do attract a lot of tourists, Craig fought hard to protect the gorillas from over-exposure. He helped implement the rule where a vistor's group cannot exceed 8 people and the time spent with gorillas cannot be longer that 1 hour per day! He was "the super star" in Virunga. E veryone we met there just knew his name! E very ranger recognized him and had much respect for him and his work achievements in the Park.
We also spent time speaking with the members of the local community. In the Virunga mountains, tourist pay top dollar for the privilege of tracking mountain gorillas. When local communities benefit from tourism, they have more incentive to protect gorillas. The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is partially owned by the local community.

AWF helped structure a loan so that interest payments will only be triggered by income. In business terms, it is a subordinated equity deal. In conservation terms, it is a precedent that could open the way for conservation tourism development across the continent! The income from the Lodge is managed by SACOLA trust, that represent more than 6,000 households in the area. A fter our stroll through the village sitting right below the lodge we have realized how much the locals have benefited already only after two years! There is a brand new road which helps everyone to commute better. They have built new water wells in each village...and the aspirations are to bring electricity to their homes.All that thanks to Sabyniyo Silverback Lodge, and us tourists, who visit and pay!It was so sad to leave! But we had so many meetings the following day in Kigali and a plane to catch!We were kindly invited by the US Ambassador to Rwanda, W.Stuart Symington, to his home where we shared our views on protecting wild life, Rwanda's relations with USA, and Rwanda's future.

We also had the privilege to meet with Ms. Rosette Chantal Rugamba, Head of the National Office for Tourism and National Parks. We had an interesting discussion with her and Craig Sholley on securing the lives of the mountain gorillas and the influx of tourism due to safety and stability in the country. We also had the pleasure to meet with Mr. Francis Gatare who is the new Personal Representative of President Paul Kagame. Over nicely cooled, local beer, we shared with him our experience in Rwanda. He provided us with information about the country's achievements over the past 15 years, since the genocide. We talked about the presence of women in the local parliament and about the security situation in the county. We also discussed the system of community justice, called Gacaca, as well as the growing economy.

My fellow goodwill ambassador Ben Stein and I were at the end of our journey in Rwanda. But this shall not be our last visit! We've made so many friends there! We will be back:)

-Veronica Varekova

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Abbey + Karlie - Vogue Italia December 2009

Abbey Lee and Karlie Kloss are amongst Steven Meisel's chosen girls featured in the "Meiselpic" story- a play off of Twitpic. Here's a little snippet into the girls' personal lives: