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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Supreme Court Finds AIDS Aid Rules Violate First Amendment Protections

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that groups which receive federal money to combat the AIDS epidemic are no longer required to adopt policies opposing prostitution. Since 2003, federal funding to private groups dealing with AIDS and HIV has come with two conditions. The uncontested first condition is that the money may not be used “to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution and sex trafficking.” The second condition, which was before the SCOTUS today, demanded that recipients of such funds have “a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” According to Marine Buissonniere, the director of the Open Society Public Health Program on of the groups who brought this case agains the U.S. government, this requirement ran afoul of her organization’s First Amendment rights. In a statement today Buissonniere wrote, “Public health groups cannot tell sex workers that we ‘oppose’ them, yet expect them to be partners in preventing H.I.V.” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent that “the First Amendment does not mandate a viewpoint-neutral government.” And that the contested condition merely allowed the government to “enlist the assistance of those who believe in its ideas.” Buissonniere was buoyed by the majority’s decision today, saying, “condemnation and alienation are not public health strategies.”

Emirati Fishing Vessels Seized in Persian Gulf

The Iranian military has arrested the crew of two fishing ships from the United Arab Emirates. Twelve Emirati and one Indian were arrested and transferred to a military brig. According to Colonel Ali Vesali, “forces at Abu Musa Marine Patrol Base detected two intruding UAE vessels while fishing in the Persian Gulf waters and issued the order for capturing them.” Relations between the UAE and Iran have been strained since 1971, when Iran took possession of Abu Musa island in the Persian Gulf. In April, the UAE filed a compliant with the Gulf Cooperation Council seeking to censure Iran after then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Abu Musa. Ahmadinejad rejected the complaint, saying, “”Everyone knows and should know that the dear nation of Iran is the most peace-loving nation in the world. But everyone should also know that if there is any aggression against the Iranian nation, or our proud military, or if the land, interests and dignity of Iran are looked at in a hostile manner, the enemies will be confronted with a deep and embarrassing sense of regret.”

WHO Report Says A Third of Women are Victims of Violence

Today the World Health Organization released what is believed to be the first systematic study of global data on the prevalence of violence against women. It concludes that more than a third of all women globally are affected by physical or sexual violence. Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO says, “These findings send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions.” Among many shocking findings the report, ‘Global and regional estimates of violence against women‘, found that 38 percent of all women who were murdered were murdered by their intimate partners, and 42 percent of women who have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner had experienced injuries as a result. Earlier this year, Chan joined the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in calling for zero tolerance for violence against women at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. Since then, seven countries – Belgium, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, the U.S., and Zambia – declared violence against women and girls “a major global public health, gender equality and human rights challenge, touching every country and every part of society.”

Mayan City Rediscovered

A consortium of scientists sponsored by the National Geographic Society have rediscovered the ruins of a previously unknown ancient Mayan city in the rain forests of eastern Mexico. Chactun, as the team are calling the city, contains the remnants of at least 15 pyramids and several ball courts. According to the team leader, Ivan Sprajc, it could have been home to as many as 30,000 people during its zenith during the late Classic period of Maya civilization between 600 and 900 B.C.E. While the Chactun was unknown to historians, Sprajc found evidence suggesting other people had been to the site roughly 20 years ago. “Lumberjacks and gum extractors were certainly already there, because we saw cuts on the trees,” Sprajc said. “What happened is they never told anyone.”

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