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In The News

Mar 2, 2010

NATIONAL – Google has altered key features on its new social networking site, Google Buzz – which is designed to compete with Facebook and Twitter – after users complained that it violated their privacy by exposing the names of their email contacts. Among those who were alarmed by the feature were victims of domestic violence and stalking. When it launched earlier this month, Google Buzz enabled a visible and ready-made circle of friends based on a user’s most frequent email and chat contacts. Google has now turned off the auto-follow feature and plans to create a new Buzz tab in the Gmail settings page that will allow users to completely hide and disable Buzz, the New York Times reports. 
 
DE – Governor Jack A. Markell announced a new domestic violence policy to assist state employees who are victims of violence. The state says it will reasonably accommodate victims needing help with work schedule adjustments, temporary relocations to a new office, space re-assignments and security escorts. Each state agency will designate an individual to assist with domestic violence issues within that agency. Governor Markell had pledged to take these actions in an executive order last October.  
 
IL – The Democratic Party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, Scott Lee Cohen, stepped aside on February 8 after news of his 2005 arrest on a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery and other allegations of spousal abuse and steroid use came to light. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run independently in Illinois primaries, and many party leaders urged Cohen to step down, reports the New York Times.  
 
NY – Governor David Paterson announced last week that he would not run for a full term, following allegations that he may have pressured the victim not to press charges in a case in which one of his top aides, David Johnson, allegedly assaulted his partner. The victim accused Johnson of choking and assaulting her last fall. She complained that the State Police, who have no jurisdiction in the case, have harassed her to drop her case. Governor Paterson’s role is unclear, but the Governor and the alleged victim had a phone conversation the day before a February 8 court date – and the victim did not come to court as expected. Governor Paterson has asked the state’s Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, to investigate his handling of the case and the role of the State Police. David Johnson has been suspended without pay.
 
NY – The New York State Senate voted to expel one of its members on February 9 for the first time in nearly a century. State Senator Hiram Monserrate was convicted of a misdemeanor assault for dragging his bleeding companion down a hallway. It was captured on the building’s security cameras. Monserrate’s girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, initially told doctors that he had attacked her, but later denied making those statements. Monserrate has said he will challenge his expulsion in court, the New York Times reports.
 
RI – Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman and Mayor David Cicilline have announced new anti-crime initiatives, including a new campaign to identify troubled households and relationships. This announcement followed reports that one in three of the city’s murders in 2009 were domestic homicides, the Providence Journal-Bulletin reports. Chief Esserman said that the number of domestic violence assaults and calls for help declined in 2009, but some of the incidents of domestic violence were more severe than those that occurred in the past. 
 
TX – A Harris County Criminal Court judge retired this month after he was widely criticized for mistreating victims of domestic violence, demonstrating deep-seated bias and trivializing court proceedings. Judge Reagan Helm retired a day before a recusal hearing; the district attorney wanted Judge Helm removed from all family violence cases, KTRK reports. A motion filed in November details cases in which Judge Helm asked a woman seeking a protective order how she was going to pay for her groceries without her husband around. In another case, Judge Helm asked a prosecutor whether she wanted a man who was accused of beating his girlfriend to fight the enemy overseas or attack women here.
 
WI – Despite a statewide decrease in violent crime, domestic homicides in Wisconsin increased 64 percent in 2009, hitting a ten-year high. “While economic turmoil doesn’t drive abusers to use violence, financial insecurity prevents victims from leaving abusive homes, meaning the violence continues and escalates,” Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Patti Seger told the Appleton Post-Crescent.
 
IRAN – More than 1,000 Iranians signed a statement protesting a bill that would give men the right to take additional wives without having to tell their current wives, and impose restrictions on alimony for women, the New York Times reports. The nation’s women are increasingly asserting their rights, experts say, and many have been jailed and several were killed in a government crackdown on the street protests.