In The News

Jul 1, 2010

NATIONAL – The Supreme Court ruled that federal officials can indefinitely hold inmates who are considered “sexually dangerous” after their prison terms are complete. Four men serving three to eight years for possession of child pornography or sexual abuse of a minor challenged the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which was signed into law in 2006. Prison officials claimed these men would pose a risk of sexually violent conduct or child molestation if they were released, and the Supreme Court agreed. In the majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the Act is a “necessary and proper” means of exercising federal authority. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented, saying that nothing in the Constitution expressly gives Congress this power.

MILITARY – Last year, mental health disorders caused more hospitalizations among U.S. troops than any other cause, accounting for almost 40 percent of all days spent in hospitals by servicemembers. It was the first time mental health hospitalizations outpaced injuries or pregnancies in the 15 years since the Pentagon began tracking the data. Army Surgeon General Lt. General Eric Schoomaker told USA Today that nine years of war is taking a toll on soldiers. The Army’s increased attention to mental health issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse and anxiety, is another reason for the rise in hospital admissions.

AK – Continuing his pledge to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault, Governor Sean Parnell signed three pieces of legislation last month to further his goal of ending the state’s violence epidemic within a decade. Senate Bill 222 toughens laws on child pornography and creates a Class A misdemeanor for offensive touching that doesn’t rise to the level of sexual assault; House Bill 324 enhances crime victims’ rights and improves the quality of law enforcement; and Senate Bill 110 sets new standards for DNA evidence retention. “Domestic violence and sexual assault gravely injure our citizens and families at an alarming rate,” Governor Parnell said. “With harsher penalties for those who abuse, and increased awareness and support for those who have been harmed, we are taking the first of many steps to end the scourge that has damaged our state for far too long.”

CA – Speaker John Pérez unveiled the Democrats’ jobs budget on May 25 and it proposes full restoration of state funding for domestic violence shelters – $20.4 million that Governor Schwarzenegger eliminated in a line-item veto last year. The funding was included to strengthen the social safety net. The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence has asked the legislature to reinstate funding for the state’s domestic violence shelters; that request has been approved by both Houses and is awaiting final passage as part of the full budget package.

HI – The city of Honolulu secured $400,000 in federal grant money last month to plan, purchase equipment, conduct trainings and pay rent for the city’s first one-stop center for domestic abuse victims, the Honolulu Advertiser reports. The new center aims to house representatives from police, counseling groups and treatment programs under one roof so that a battered woman would be able to file a restraining order, talk to police, get counseling and develop a safety plan (depending on the agencies that participate in the new center). It is expected to open within two years.

PA – The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) urged Pennsylvanians to contact WBEB 101.FM in Philadelphia to express their displeasure with the station’s decision to deny PCAR advertising space for its HERO Project Campaign because the 30-second PSA mentions the words “rape” and “sexual.” WBEB’s General Manager, Blaise Howard, offered PCAR space only if it altered the PSA’s wording and used “child abuse” instead of “child sexual abuse,” and removed the word “rape” from the organization’s name – ostensibly because listeners would be upset by the words currently in the PSA. “Child sexual abuse is not about sexuality,” PCAR Executive Director Delilah Rumburg said. “It’s about violence to our children. If the station doesn’t believe its listeners could handle hearing words about abuse, imagine what child victims of sexual abuse are experiencing.” To contact WBEB, call 610/667-8400. Listen to PCAR’s HERO Project PSA.

INTERNATIONAL – A report published in The Lancet last month found that global death rates for children age five or younger are dropping at a “surprisingly fast pace.” On average, death rates have dropped by about two percent per year from 1990 to 2010 and, in some regions, including some of the poorest parts of Africa, the declines have accelerated. More education for women, vaccines, AIDS medicines, vitamin supplements and advances in treating diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria are some of the factors that have helped lower death rates, the report’s author, Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, told the New York Times.

INTERNATIONAL – Earlier this month the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would spend $1.5 billion over the next five years on maternal and child health, family planning and nutrition programs in developing countries. This announcement represents a new emphasis for the Foundation, which previously focused on infectious disease, vaccines and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. Melinda Gates told the New York Times that much of the $1.5 billion will go to programs in India, Ethiopia and other countries where mothers and children have relatively high death rates.

AFGHANISTAN – The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission released video of two child brides (ages 13 and 14) being publicly flogged after attempting to run away from their husbands. The girls were intercepted by police and forced to return to their village after being on the run for two days, trying to escape their forced marriages to much older men, the New York Times reported last month. The Human Rights Commission took the video, shot on January 12 when the girls were lashed, to the government and asked officials to take action. It then released the video after the government ignored the request. The country’s constitution forbids the marriage of girls under 16, but the rule is often ignored or unenforced. Flogging is also illegal.