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Harvey Weinstein’s studio faces civil rights probe; assistant admits she was paid to keep quiet

The New York Attorney General will investigate allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation.

In further trouble for The Weinstein Company, the New York Attorney General has launched a civil rights investigation into the embattled film studio after multiple allegations of sexual harassment and rape against its co-founder Harvey Weinstein, The Guardian reported.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a wide-ranging subpoena for records to the company, which has its headquarters in New York, reportedly seeking personnel files, criteria for hiring, promoting and firing, formal and informal complaints of sexual harassment or other discrimination and records showing how such complaints were handled. Schneirderman’s office is examining whether the sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein are in any way reflective of the company’s handling of gender-related issues or civil and human rights.

“No New Yorker should be forced to walk into a workplace ruled by sexual intimidation, harassment or fear,” Schneiderman said in a statement on Monday. “If sexual harassment or discrimination is pervasive at a company, we want to know.”

Police investigations into the allegations against Weinstein are also underway in New York City, London and Los Angeles.

Paid to stay silent

Weinstein, who is one of Hollywood’s most powerful and influential producers, was fired from The Weinstein Company following reports in The New York Times and New Yorker that he sexually harassed women for decades. More than 40 women have made allegations against Weinstein, including prominent Hollywood actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne, Lupita Nyong’o and Brit Marling.

In some cases, the women had allegedly been barred from speaking out against misconduct as they had signed non-disclosure agreements with the producer. Weinstein’s former assistant Zelda Perkins, in an interview to the Financial Times on Monday, claimed that she had been paid $165,200 dollars in 1998 as part of a legal contract to stay silent after she and a colleague, who had allegedly been assaulted by the producer, decided to complain against him.

Perkins, who worked with Weinstein at his previous company Miramax, said she too been sexually harassed for years. “I want to publicly break my non-disclosure agreement,” she told the Financial Times. “Unless somebody does this there won’t be a debate about how egregious these agreements are and the amount of duress that victims are put under.”

Weinstein’s response to the allegations have ranged from denial to apology and counter-accusations, The Atlantic pointed out. When the allegations first came out, Weinstein issued a lengthy statement apologising for his conduct, reiterating that “rules about behaviour and workplaces were different” in the 1960s and ’70s, when he “came of age”. But he also threatened to sue The New York Times (the suit is now in jeopardy after Weinstein fired his lawyer).

After Nyong’o accused the producer of sexual misconduct in an essay for The New York Times, his spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, issued a statement saying “Mr Weinstein has a different recollection of the events, but believes Lupita is a brilliant actress and a major force for the industry. Last year, she sent a personal invitation to Mr. Weinstein to see her in her Broadway show Eclipsed.”

In a near-identical response to Marling’s accusations, the spokesperson in a statement to The Atlantic that the producer “has a different recollection of the events’’.

Condemning Weinstein

Meanwhile, in a joint interview with George Clooney, Matt Damon told ABC news that although he knew Weinstein was a “womaniser”, the actor never realised that he was a sexual predator. “We hope this is a watershed moment for us as a society, where women feel safe enough to talk about this issue, feel believed,” Clooney said in the interview.

On Monday, leading figures in British theatre released a statement condemning “sexual harassment or abuse of power” within their industry, The Guardian reported. The statement, signed by 19 British theatre owners, follows accusations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein and British theatre director Max Stafford-Clark.

“Following the reports and allegations of the last two weeks, first in America and, more recently, closer to home, we have come together to make clear that there can be no place for sexual harassment or abuse of power in our industry,” the statement said.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.