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FACES OF THE NEWS: Feb. 17, 2019

/ 07:18 AM February 17, 2019

Maria Ressa

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When National Bureau of Investigation agents came to arrest her on Wednesday, CEO Maria Ressa of the online news site Rappler maintained a measured smile.

But her zen-like demeanor belied the sharpness of her words.

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“We will and must say when the Constitution [has been] violated,” Ressa said, after it became clear that she could not post bail that day. “We must say when the line [has been] crossed.”

By the time she was released on Thursday, an avalanche of support had rolled in from human rights advocates, press colleagues, university officials and even foreign governments, who described her arrest on cyberlibel charges as a brazen attack on press freedom.

Ressa, who is facing a slew of other court cases that many see as harassment, added: “For me, it’s about two things — abuse of power and weaponization of the law.”

Rappler’s critical coverage of the Duterte administration’s alleged offenses earned for Ressa a Time Magazine Person of the Year Award in 2018.

Oscar Arias

Although he was twice elected president of Costa Rica and was named a 1987 Nobel laureate for his efforts to end civil wars in Central America, Oscar Arias’ popularity took a plunge last week after several women denounced him for sexual assault.

Two women — psychiatrist and antinuclear activist Alexandra Arce von Herold and former Miss Costa Rica Jazmin Morales — filed formal charges of rape and sexual misconduct, respectively, against the former leader.

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Five other women, including his former press aide Eleonora Antillon, came out and publicly spoke of Arias’ inappropriate behavior dating back to 1986.

On Feb. 8, feminist groups protested outside the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress with signs reading, “Oscar Arias, rapist,” “I believe you” and “He proposes peace, but invades women’s bodies.”

At least eight women have come forward to share similar experiences in what has become known as Costa Rica’s own #MeToo moment.

Princess Ubolratana

Princess Ubolratana of Thailand, the 67-year-old older sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, surprised the world on Feb. 8 when she announced her candidacy for prime minister in next month’s general elections.

But the king himself dashed her political hopes when he described her candidacy as “inappropriate” and unconstitutional, a view echoed by the elections commission, which disqualified the princess.

But the matter did not end there. After Princess Ubolratana apologized for “causing problems,” the poll body lashed out at the Thai Raksa Chart party that nominated her and charged it with violating a law against the involvement of Thai royals in political campaigns.

The party, loyal to ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, now faces disqualification in the March elections for the supposed offense.

Chastised, the princess returned to her work with the youth on Valentine’s Day in Phichit province for a concert run as part of her antidrug campaign.

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán

Mexican crime boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, head of the notorious Sinaloa drug ring, was found guilty on Feb. 12 of all 10 federal criminal counts against him.

Jurors did not look at the defendant, who pocketed nearly $14 billion as the decadeslong head of the murderous cartel.

There was no visible reaction from Guzmán, whose conviction carries a mandatory life term.

He is set to be sentenced in June, but despite the guilty verdict, the blue pills, known as “Mexican oxy” that he used to import into the United States, continue to kill people in the US Southwest, a hot spot of the US fentanyl crisis.

El Chapo has an unparalleled record of jailbreaks, having escaped two high-security Mexican prisons before his ultimate capture and extradition to the United States.

Guzmán seems the ideal candidate for the “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, a facility so secure, so remote and so austere that it has been called the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino has been reaping acclaim since the release of “This is America” in May last year.

The song, which tackles racism and violence in the United States, didn’t just debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, it also marked a career breakthrough for the 35-year-old recording artist when it became the first rap song to win Record of the Year at this year’s Grammys.

It went home with three other awards, including Song of the Year, best rap/sung performance and best music video.

When he isn’t making controversial music videos, the artist is better-known as Donald Glover, who has won Golden Globes and Emmys as an actor and director (for the TV series “Atlanta,” which he created).

He’s also part of the popular “Star Wars” franchise.

He played the young Lando Calrissian in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

The American actor, comedian, writer, producer, director, rapper, singer and songwriter is also a disc jockey who goes under the name mcDJ.

Now that’s versatility personified.

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TAGS: Childish Gambino, El Chapo, Faces of the News, Joaquin Guzman, Maria Ressa, Oscar Arias, Princess Ubolratana
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