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In The News

Aug 17, 2009

NATIONAL – Online sensations Jill and Kevin Heinz, the couple who enchanted more than 18 million YouTube viewers by dancing down the aisle to Chris Brown’s “Forever” at their wedding, are encouraging their fans to donate to a domestic violence prevention agency. On their web site, the couple says, “Due to the circumstances surrounding the song in our wedding video, we have chosen the Sheila Wellstone Institute. Sheila Wellstone was an advocate, organizer and national champion in the effort to end domestic violence in our communities.” Watch Jill and Kevin’s wedding dance and donate to the Sheila Wellstone Institute at www.jkweddingdance.com/. In a related note, Chris Brown’s sentencing has been delayed until August 27. Brown pled guilty in June to felony charges for assaulting his then-girlfriend, pop star Rihanna.

CO – An Army report released last month finds that soldiers who see more combat and experience more deaths among fellow soldiers killed may be more likely to get into trouble when they come home, the Colorado Springs Gazette reports. The Army report was commissioned in 2008 after six 4th Brigade Combat Team soldiers were charged with murder during a 12-month period. Combat stress, mental health problems and substance abuse issues were found among most soldiers committing crimes, although the report did not identify a direct cause and effect relationship that led to the killings. The Army says the report will result in increased screening for soldiers who show signs of problems, policy changes and a series of studies, to better determine the effects of eight years of war on troops.

CT – The Stamford Marriott Hotel is claiming that a woman who was raped at gunpoint in front of her two children in the hotel’s parking garage was careless, negligent and “failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children,” the Stamford Advocate reports. The Marriott made the claims in court documents as part of a special defense, which allows defendants in civil suits to argue they are not responsible for damages even if the plaintiff’s charge is true. The victim claims that the attacker, Gary Fricker, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison, had been in the hotel garage acting suspiciously for days before, as well as the afternoon of the attack, and that hotel staff failed to apprehend him or make him leave. The victim’s attorneys also claim that the hotel identified her to acquaintances (who knew nothing of the incident) by subpoenaing them, in an effort to intimidate her. The trial is scheduled for April.

DC – A new program in the District will offer sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing for all high school students next year, the Washington Post reports. Last year’s pilot program found that 13 percent of students (3,000 from eight high schools) tested positive for an STD – in most cases, gonorrhea or chlamydia. In the program, students attend a lecture on STDs but can opt out of providing a urine sample for the test.

PA – On August 4, George Sodini opened fire during an aerobics class in a Bridgeville fitness center, wounding nine women and killing three before killing himself. Sodini’s notes and an online diary discovered after his death detail a hatred of women, including Sodini’s mother, and despair over his inability to attract women. Police said Sodini carefully planned the attack and apparently targeted the aerobics class because it contained all women. “He had a lot of hatred for women,” Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He was hell-bent on committing this act and nothing was going to stop him.”

AFRICA – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrapped up an 11-day trip through seven African nations – including the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo – last week. During her visit, Secretary Clinton announced that $17 million in new funding would be released to help victims of sexual violence in the Congo, train new doctors and police officers, and help send military engineers to help build new facilities. She called the Congo’s stunning levels of sexual violence “evil in its basest form,” the New York Times reports. Secretary Clinton is the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit the war zone.

JAPAN – For the fifth straight year, the number of domestic abuse cases handled by police rose, jumping 20 percent in the past year to 25,200 cases. “Social norms are changing and what used to be an unfortunate private family matter is now seen as unacceptable and requiring state intervention,” Director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo told Women’s eNews. Japan criminalized domestic violence in 2001.

SUDAN – A former United Nations worker is accused of violating the country’s indecency law for wearing trousers in public and faces 40 lashes and a fine. Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein is moving forward with a trial to change the law instead, and has rallied public support. She printed invitations to her trial and invited members of the press to her flogging; at her hearing, nearly 100 protesters lined up outside the court to support her, the Economist reports. In a public letter, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the indecency charges, “an intolerable attack on women’s rights,” and said, “We will continue to work with her to help in her struggle, which is the struggle of all women.” Lubna al-Hussein’s trial has been adjourned until September 7.

UNITED KINGDOM – British actress Joanna Lumley, known for the comedy series “Absolutely Fabulous,” has been named a Goodwill Ambassador for the Nepalese charity Maiti Nepal. In this role, she pledges to help raise awareness about human trafficking and its victims. Lumley recently fought for the rights of Gurkhas, Nepalese fighters who served in the British Army, and waged a successful campaign allowing them to settle in Britain.