Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Meghan Reads 'The Bench' on Brightly Storytime & Report Lays Bare Anti-Meghan Social Media Campaign

Good evening! The Duchess of Sussex made a surprise appearance -- the first time we've seen her since the Sussexes' whirlwind visit to New York last month -- for a special reading of The Bench on Brightly Storytime. Reading from her gorgeous garden in Montecito, Meghan introduced herself and discussed the inspiration behind the book: "I'm Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. I wrote this as a poem for my husband and our son, Archie, and then turned it into a book so you could enjoy it, too."

Meghan discussed the process of creating the illustrations and the amazing work of Christian Robinson before proceeding with the reading. Afterwards, Meghan said, "I hope you're able to go and find your own special bench, or chair or a little quiet nook — just a place that means something to you that you can share with someone you love."


Brightly are passionate about raising children who love to read. They believe reading has the "power to illuminate kids’ lives and connect families by facilitating a space in which children and the adults in their lives can spend quality time together". They provide parents, caregivers and educators tools, tips and recommendations, and take pride in working with a diverse group of authors and contributors.


I enjoyed seeing the lists they curate including a monthly theme. October's is gratitude.


It follows news Meghan gifted each child at the Assistance League of LA pre-school a personal copy of the book. The pre-school said the children were overjoyed, adding, "Thank you to The Archewell Foundation for this donation and your continued support of the League and L.A.’s most vulnerable children."


Harry and Meghan marked the 23rd anniversary of Diana's passing by helping students at the school replant their garden ahead of term, commencing with a plethora of seeds, including Diana's favourite forget-me-not.

The Duchess wore a pale blue shirt and jeans with familiar accessories, including Diana's Cartier Tank watch.

Embed from Getty Images

And Cartier Love bracelet.


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Before signing off tonight, I also wanted to share the findings of a new analytics report compiled by Bot Sentinel on the hate-fueled, coordinated smear campaign against the Duchess of Sussex on Twitter. The most shocking finding? 83 accounts are behind 70% of the abusive tweets. More from the Guardian:

'The Duchess of Sussex, who has said she avoids social media for “my own self-preservation”, has been the subject of a coordinated hate and misinformation campaign on Twitter, according to a new report.

It analysed 114,000 tweets relating to the couple, and identified 83 accounts that it alleged were behind 70% of the more virulent anti-Sussex tweets.

“Our analysis allowed us to isolate 55 single-purpose accounts we identified as the primary hate accounts and 28 secondary hate accounts that mainly amplified the primary accounts,” the report said. With the accounts having a total of 187,631 followers, using analytic tools Bot Sentinel estimated “a combined unique potential reach of 17 million users”.'
BuzzFeed's Ellie Hall spoke to Bot Sentinel CEO Christopher Bouzy who revealed the anti-Meghan campaign is unlike anything his team has seen before:
'Bouzy emphasized that the negative Twitter activity is not fueled by automated bot accounts, but real accounts run by humans.

“This campaign comes from people who know how to manipulate the algorithms, manipulate Twitter, stay under the wire to avoid detection and suspension,” he said. “This level of complexity comes from people who know how to do this stuff, who are paid to do this stuff.”

Bouzy said the users targeting Meghan and Harry are operating “in a more clever way than we normally see.” He said their hateful tweets are mixed in with tweets that do not violate Twitter’s terms of service, making these accounts harder for Bot Sentinel to automatically detect.

Bouzy told BuzzFeed News that it’s easier for these single-purpose anti-Sussex accounts to also avoid detection because they pair their negative content about Harry and Meghan that violate the terms of service with positive comments about other members of the royal family, particularly Harry’s brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.'
'The service found that Twitter had previously suspended many of the accounts, but the users were deploying tactics to avoid suspension, including placing "parody" in their profiles.

"Others would use racist coded language about Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, to avoid detection," Bot Sentinel said in the report. "We also observed several accounts either lock or completely deactivate their profiles to preserve their accounts."

Bot Sentinel also found the Twitter algorithm actively suggested they follow some of the hate accounts after viewing just two of them.

A Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that they are "actively investigating the information and accounts referenced in this report — we will take action on accounts that violate the Twitter Rules."
For those of us active on social media, the findings of this report will sadly offer nothing new, though it is fascinating and disturbing in equal measure to see the scale of abuse coming from just 83 accounts. It lays bare the state of social media as a whole and the entirely lacking steps taken to tackle online abuse. The Sussexes are currently not active on any social media platform -- something which is evidently the correct choice with the deluge of vitriol continuing.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Meghan Calls for Paid Parental Leave in Powerful Letter to Congress

In a powerful and personal letter, the Duchess of Sussex wrote to congress to advocate for paid parental leave for all. "In taking care of your child, you take care of your community, and you take care of your country—because when paid leave is a right, we’re creating a foundation that helps address mental health outcomes, health care costs, and economic strength at the starting line," the Duchess wrote in a piece published on the Paid Leave for All's website.

We've heard Meghan share her concerns on the impact the pandemic has add on women. In spring, Harry and Meghan discussed the issue privately with a storytelling group from MomsRising. In the letter the Duchess notes: "At an alarming rate, millions of women dropped out of the workforce, staying home with their kids as schools and daycares were closed, and looking after loved ones full-time. The working mom or parent is facing the conflict of being present or being paid. The sacrifice of either comes at a great cost." Meghan adds she's not an elected official or a politician, but is writing as "an engaged citizen and a parent". Reflecting on welcoming Lili to their family, she adds: "In June, my husband and I welcomed our second child. Like any parents, we were overjoyed. Like many parents, we were overwhelmed. Like fewer parents, we weren’t confronted with the harsh reality of either spending those first few critical months with our baby or going back to work. We knew we could take her home, and in that vital (and sacred) stage, devote any and everything to our kids and to our family."

Meghan writes of her own childhood and working hard throughout her life, often to make ends meet: "I grew up on the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler—it may have cost less back then (to be honest, I can’t remember)—but what I do remember was the feeling: I knew how hard my parents worked to afford this because even at five bucks, eating out was something special, and I felt lucky. And as a Girl Scout, when my troop would go to dinner for a big celebration, it was back to that same salad bar or The Old Spaghetti Factory—because that’s what those families could afford to do too. I started working (at the local frozen yogurt shop) at the age of 13. I waited tables, babysat, and piecemealed jobs together to cover odds and ends. I worked all my life and saved when and where I could—but even that was a luxury—because usually it was about making ends meet and having enough to pay my rent and put gas in my car. I expect many of your constituents have their own version of that story. Perhaps you do too."

People in our country work incredibly hard, and yet the ask is soft: for a level playing field to achieve their version of a common dream—what is fair, and equal, and right. - The Duchess of Sussex

Meghan closed by stressing this isn't a partisan issue, it's about families. "Paid leave should be a national right, rather than a patchwork option limited to those whose employers have policies in place, or those who live in one of the few states where a leave program exists. If we’re going to create a new era of family first policies, let’s make sure that includes a strong paid leave program for every American that’s guaranteed, accessible, and encouraged without stigma or penalty. I know how politically charged things can—and have—become. But this isn’t about Right or Left, it’s about right or wrong. This is about putting families above politics. And for a refreshing change, it’s something we all seem to agree on. At a point when everything feels so divisive, let this be a shared goal that unites us. So, on behalf of my family, Archie and Lili and Harry, I thank you for considering this letter, and on behalf of all families, I ask you to ensure this consequential moment is not lost."

Meghan's letter in full:

Dear Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi,

I’m not an elected official, and I’m not a politician. I am, like many, an engaged citizen and a parent. And because you and your congressional colleagues have a role in shaping family outcomes for generations to come, that’s why I’m writing to you at this deeply important time—as a mom—to advocate for paid leave.

Over the past 20 months, the pandemic has exposed long-existing fault lines in our communities. At an alarming rate, millions of women dropped out of the workforce, staying home with their kids as schools and daycares were closed, and looking after loved ones full-time. The working mom or parent is facing the conflict of being present or being paid. The sacrifice of either comes at a great cost.

For many, this sacrifice goes back further than the past 20 months; it’s 20 or 30 years, even longer—decades of giving time, body, and endless energy not just in the pursuit of the American dream, but simply the dream of stability.

I grew up on the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler—it may have cost less back then (to be honest, I can’t remember)—but what I do remember was the feeling: I knew how hard my parents worked to afford this because even at five bucks, eating out was something special, and I felt lucky. And as a Girl Scout, when my troop would go to dinner for a big celebration, it was back to that same salad bar or The Old Spaghetti Factory—because that’s what those families could afford to do too. 

I started working (at the local frozen yogurt shop) at the age of 13. I waited tables, babysat, and piecemealed jobs together to cover odds and ends. I worked all my life and saved when and where I could—but even that was a luxury—because usually it was about making ends meet and having enough to pay my rent and put gas in my car. 

I expect many of your constituents have their own version of that story. Perhaps you do too. People in our country work incredibly hard, and yet the ask is soft: for a level playing field to achieve their version of a common dream—what is fair, and equal, and right. Many of our economic systems are past their expiration date, and as you well know, too many Americans are forced to shortchange themselves when it comes to what matters to them.

In June, my husband and I welcomed our second child. Like any parents, we were overjoyed. Like many parents, we were overwhelmed. Like fewer parents, we weren’t confronted with the harsh reality of either spending those first few critical months with our baby or going back to work. We knew we could take her home, and in that vital (and sacred) stage, devote any and everything to our kids and to our family.  We knew that by doing so we wouldn’t have to make impossible choices about childcare, work, and medical care that so many have to make every single day. 

No family should be faced with these decisions. No family should have to choose between earning a living and having the freedom to take care of their child (or a loved one, or themselves, as we would see with a comprehensive paid leave plan). 

In taking care of your child, you take care of your community, and you take care of your country—because when paid leave is a right, we’re creating a foundation that helps address mental health outcomes, health care costs, and economic strength at the starting line. Instead, as it stands now, we spend a fortune as a country paying into symptoms rather than causes.  I understand that with everything going on these days, people might find it easy to be apathetic about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. And then equally, when it feels like your voice doesn’t matter, you tend to use it less often, but with stakes this high none of us can afford to let apathy win. 

I’m writing to you on behalf of millions of American families who are using their voices to say that comprehensive paid leave should not be a place to compromise or negotiate. In fact, most nations already have paid leave policies in place. Estonia, for example, offers over a year and a half of leave to be shared by new parents. Many other countries have robust programs that give months of time for both parents (birth or adoptive) to be home with their child. The United States, in stark contrast, does not federally guarantee any person a single day of paid leave. And fewer than one in four workers has dedicated paid family leave through their employer. I’m sure you agree that if we are to continue to be exceptional, then we can’t be the exception. 

The families you represent need your strong leadership. With paid leave on the cusp of becoming a national reality, I trust you will meet this moment. I know you must hear from your constituents about the choices they are facing every day to make ends meet and care for their families. 

Paid leave should be a national right, rather than a patchwork option limited to those whose employers have policies in place, or those who live in one of the few states where a leave program exists. If we’re going to create a new era of family first policies, let’s make sure that includes a strong paid leave program for every American that’s guaranteed, accessible, and encouraged without stigma or penalty. 

I know how politically charged things can—and have—become. But this isn’t about Right or Left, it’s about right or wrong. This is about putting families above politics. And for a refreshing change, it’s something we all seem to agree on. At a point when everything feels so divisive, let this be a shared goal that unites us.

So, on behalf of my family, Archie and Lili and Harry, I thank you for considering this letter, and on behalf of all families, I ask you to ensure this consequential moment is not lost.

As ever,

Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex

The Duchess has partnered with Paid Leave for All, Marshall Plan for Moms, and Paid Leave US in the effort.


 A number of leading charitable organisations have supported the lettter. 

Omid Scobie reports a representative said Meghan "cares deeply about advocating for families in the US and around the world". In so many parts of the world, including the UK, we are fortunate enough to take maternity leave for granted. It is very much a right -- exactly as it should be. I was shocked to read on Paid Leave for All's website just 21 percent of US workers have access to paid family leave through an employer and only 40 percent have access to short-term disability insurance. One in four mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth. It's deeply disappointing it's such a politically charged issue, and I think the first and most important step is defusing that view and seeing it as a rights issue first and foremost. I know a number of readers in the US will have firsthand experience of this and the unimaginable strains placed upon parents. I'm looking forward to seeing Meghan's efforts and potential next steps.

If you would like to support the effort, please click here.