More details emerged Thursday of harassment allegations against NBC's Matt Lauer, the second US star anchor sacked in a week as the sexual misconduct hurricane pummels television networks after convulsing Hollywood and politics.

NBC anchor Matt Lauer expresses ‘shame’ and ‘regret’

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by Jennie MATTHEW/Agence France-Presse

More details emerged Thursday of harassment allegations against NBC’s Matt Lauer, the second US star anchor sacked in a week as the sexual misconduct hurricane pummels television networks after convulsing Hollywood and politics.

The 59-year-old married father of three and affable host of NBC’s “Today” show beamed into American homes for decades, expressed “shame” and “regret” after being sacked when a female colleague accused him of sexual misconduct.

“Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized,” he said in a statement read Thursday on “Today”. “But there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.”

Lauer is the biggest media scalp in the firestorm of sexual misconduct allegations that has engulfed the United States, derailing the careers of Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein, Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, and last week CBS News anchor Charlie Rose.

Paid $25 million a year, he interviewed four of the last sitting US presidents, anchoring some of the world’s biggest news events for more than two decades including numerous Olympic Games, and breaking news of the September 11 attacks.

His exit leaves George Stephanopoulos at ABC News the last male star standing on national morning news programs at the traditional three US broadcast networks.

“Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching,” Lauer said. “It is now my full-time job.”

NBC News confirmed that two additional women had come forward against Lauer. An NBC correspondent covering the story said there could be as many as eight accusers, but that anonymity made it difficult to tabulate.

– Damage limitation –

One anonymous former employee told The New York Times that Lauer summoned her to his office in 2011, locked the door and sexually assaulted her. She told the Times that she passed out and had to be taken to a nurse.

Hollywood trade weekly Variety published a two-month investigation resulting from dozens of interviews, suggesting a pattern of inappropriate behavior.

Allegations included Lauer exposing himself to a female employee in his office, inviting female colleagues to his hotel room while covering the Olympics and sending a mortified colleague a sex toy with an explicit note.

Lauer had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his office door from the inside without getting up, Variety reported.

“He couldn’t sleep around town with celebrities or on the road with random people, because he’s Matt Lauer and he’s married. So he’d have to do it within his stable, where he exerted power,” one former producer told Variety.

Several women told the magazine that complaints about Lauer fell on deaf ears.

“We can say unequivocally, that, prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer’s conduct,” NBC News said.

Last month NBC News also terminated veteran political journalist Mark Halperin over allegations that he sexually harassed women while working for ABC News.

The Lauer scandal has revived scrutiny of NBC’s apparent reluctance to report other stories of sexual misconduct.

– Falling like dominos –

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the network was scooped on Donald Trump boasting of groping women on an NBC “Access Hollywood” tape, which the Washington Post published first.

The broadcaster also knocked back the chance to publish NBC contributor Ronan Farrow’s explosive reporting about Weinstein, which was instead revealed by The New Yorker.

But NBC is far from alone.

CBS News fired Charlie Rose, another morning news anchor, on November 21 after eight women told the Washington Post he had made unwanted sexual advances toward them.

Television giant Fox News has struggled to contain allegations that its late former chairman Roger Ailes and ex-star presenter Bill O’Reilly, fired this year, settled multiple cases of sexual harassment brought by female colleagues.

O’Reilly announced Thursday that he would be asking how “fair-minded Americans” should think about “the constant allegations of bad behavior by powerful men” on the paid-subscription podcast he set up after being sacked from Fox.

Lauer recently grilled O’Reilly about the women whose allegations led to his dismissal.

“Think of how intimidating that must have been, how nerve-racking that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about the way they were treated?” he said at the time.

AFP

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POLITIKO / Latest News

Chinese cyber-espionage unit on US hacking spree: report

At least 30,000 US organizations including local governments have been hacked in recent days by an “unusually aggressive” Chinese cyber-espionage campaign, according to a computer security specialist.

The campaign has exploited recently discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange software, stealing email and infecting computer servers with tools that let attackers take control remotely, Brian Krebs said in a post at his cyber security news website.

“This is an active threat,” White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said when asked about the situation during a press briefing.

“Everyone running these servers needs to act now to patch them. We are concerned that there are a large number of victims,” she added.

After Microsoft released patches for the vulnerabilities on Tuesday, attacks “dramatically stepped up” on servers not yet updated with security fixes, said Krebs, who cited unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

“At least 30,000 organizations across the United States — including a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities and local governments — have over the past few days been hacked by an unusually aggressive Chinese cyber espionage unit that’s focused on stealing email from victim organizations,” Krebs wrote in the post.

He reported that insiders said hackers have “seized control” of thousands of computer systems around the world using password-protected software tools slipped into systems.

Microsoft said early this week that a state-sponsored hacking group operating out of China is exploiting previously unknown security flaws in its Exchange email services to steal data from business users.

The company said the hacking group, which it has named “Hafnium,” is a “highly skilled and sophisticated actor.”

Hafnium has in the past targeted US-based companies including infectious disease researchers, law firms, universities, defense contractors, think tanks, and NGOs.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Microsoft executive Tom Burt said the company had released updates to fix the security flaws, which apply to on-premises versions of the software rather than cloud-based versions, and urged customers to apply them.

“We know that many nation-state actors and criminal groups will move quickly to take advantage of any unpatched systems,” he added at the time.

Microsoft said the group was based in China but operated through leased virtual private servers in the United States, and that it had briefed the US government.

Beijing has previously hit back at US accusations of state-sponsored cyber theft. Last year it accused Washington of smears following allegations that Chinese hackers were attempting to steal coronavirus research.

In January, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies said Russia was probably behind the massive SolarWinds hack that shook the government and corporate security, contradicting then-president Donald Trump, who had suggested China could be to blame.

Microsoft said Tuesday the Hafnium attacks “were in no way connected to the separate SolarWinds-related attacks.” (AFP)

Werpa si Eba! Lord Velasco recognizes women’s role in nation building

By Billy Begas

Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco pays tribute to all Filipina for their pivotal role in nation-building even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Allow me to recognize all the strong, empowered and empowering women of the House. Kinaya at kinakaya natin ang laban sa pandemya because you kept everything steady here at work even as you faced the challenges with your families at home,” said Velasco.

At present, women make up 48 percent of the House workforce.

Records from the chamber’s Human Resource Management Service show that out of the 4,037 members and employees of the House, 1,941 are women. Of which, 85 are legislators, 649 are Secretariat employees, 940 are congressional staff members, and 267 are co-terminus and contractual workers.

The House has eight female deputy speakers namely Evelina Escudero (Sorsogon), Loren Legarda (Antique), Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon party-list), Kristine Singson-Meehan (Ilocos Sur), Divina Grace Yu (Zamboanga del Sur), Camille Villar (Las Piñas City), Rose Marie Arenas (Pangasinan), and Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas).

After Velasco’s election as Speaker in October 2020, the House elected a female Secretary General—Atty. Jocelia Bighani Sipin.

Sipin spearheaded the House Secretariat through a period of transition from October 12 to November 18 last year. She is currently the Deputy Secretary General assigned at the Office of the Speaker.

On March 8, female lawmakers will take full control of the plenary session as part of the annual tradition in the legislative chamber to mark the National Women’s Month and the International Women’s Day.

The all-women session will be led by Deputy Speaker Arenas, president of the Association of Women Legislators Foundation Inc. of the 18th Congress.

The plenary is set to adopt resolutions congratulating two Filipino-American appointees of United States President Joe Biden—Gloria Steele and Camille Calimlim Touton.

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