Daily Archives: October 4, 2011

Helicopter Crashes in East River

According to CNN, a helicopter carrying at least three people has crashed into New York’s East River.

At least two people were seriously injured in the crash, according to a fire department official.

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Georgia Judge Halts Execution of Man Who Claims Innocence

A judge in Georgia has delayed an execution set for Wednesday after the inmate’s lawyer asked for more DNA testing.

Marcus Ray Johnson was scheduled to die for the 1994 rape and murder of Angela Sizemore after a nightclub visit.

It would have been the first execution in Georgia since Troy Davis was executed two weeks ago in a case that garnered international protest because several witnesses disputed their original testimony.

Dougherty County Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette halted the Johnson execution after hearing several hours of arguments Tuesday.

Johnson’s defense attorney Brian Kammer said he was pleased. District Attorney Greg Edwards said he plans to appeal the ruling and is “100 percent sure” that Johnson raped and killed Sizemore.

Via AP.

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Human Rights Watch Calls for Resignation of Judges at Khmer Rouge Tribunal

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for two investigating judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to resign from the court that is trying former Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes committed during the 1975-1979 regime.

HRW said the two judges have politicized the tribunal and have violated their legal and judicial duties by not investigating two Khmer Rouge officials in what is known as Case 003. Further, HRW suggested the judges may be bowing to the pressure of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who opposes the prosecution of any former Khmer Rouge cadres who are not already in custody.

Nearly two million people, a quarter of Cambodia‘s population, died under the Khmer Rouge.

Via VOA.

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Child Accused of First-Degree Murder for Pushing Brother

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Cristian Fernandez is only twelve years old, and if Florida prosecutor Angela Corey has her way, he’ll never leave jail again.

Cristian hasn’t had an easy life. He’s the same age now that his mother was when he was born. He’s a survivor of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. In 2010, Cristian watched his stepfather commit suicide to avoid being charged with abusing Cristian.

Last January, Cristian was wrestling with his 2-year-old brother, David, and accidentally broke David’s leg. Their mother left Cristian with his brother again in March. While the two boys were alone, Cristian pushed his brother, and David sustained a head injury. After their mother returned, she waited six hours before taking David to the hospital. David eventually died.

The prosecutor charged Cristian with first degree murder as an adult. He’s the youngest person in the history of his Florida county to receive this charge, and his next hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

As part of his prosecution, two forensic psychiatrists have examined Cristian; each concluded he is emotionally underdeveloped but essentially reformable despite a tough life.

Cristian has already been through more than most of us can imagine, and now the rest of his life is in the hands of a Florida prosecutor who wants to make sure he never leaves prison.

Via Change.org.

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North Carolina Sued Over “Choose Life” License Plates

North Carolina is the latest state to issue “Choose Life” license plates, and the American Civil Liberties Union is suing to stop them.

The plates will cost $25, with $15 going to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, which “exists to offer help and encouragement to those God calls into pregnancy care ministry” and operates crisis pregnancy centers throughout the state.

Attempts to introduce alternative plates that read “Respect Choice” or “Trust Women. Respect Choice” failed to gain traction with the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature, so the ACLU is suing for a group of “pro-choice automobile owners” who say the state is endorsing one viewpoint.

Katherine Lewis Parker, legal director of the ACLU’s North Carolina branch, explains:

The state is opening up a forum to one side of the argument. When they do that, they are constitutionally obligated to open to the other side.

She adds that “this is a free speech case — not an abortion case,” and that the ACLU would also challenge a state that produced only pro-choice plates.

State Rep. Mitch Gillespie, the plates’ Republican sponsor, says the suit is merely an effort by “an evil liberal organization to try to appease its liberal base.” He also says he thinks it will fail.

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Filed under Cheers!, Health, Law

Military Chaplains Can Perform Same-Sex Unions

Following the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, military chaplains will now be allowed to perform same-sex unions on or off a military installation.

A military chaplain may officiate at any private ceremony, but isn’t required if it would conflict with his or her religious or personal beliefs. The Pentagon also says Defense Department property may be used for private functions, including religious and other ceremonies such as same-sex unions, as long as it’s not prohibited by state or local laws.

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Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Ten Commandments Case

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The Supreme Court has turned away another appeal from an Ohio judge who wanted to display a poster containing the Ten Commandments in his courtroom.

The court on Monday refused to hear the argument rom Richland County Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese.

The judge hung the poster in his courtroom in Mansfield, north of Columbus, in 2006 after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand lower-court rulings that another Ten Commandments poster he hung in 2000 violated separation between church and state.

The ACLU of Ohio Foundation sued, and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the display endorsed religious views and was unconstitutional. The ACLU also sued in the first case.

Via Ohio.com.

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Filed under Law, National, Religion, The Supremes

Nobel Prize Winner Dies Hours Before Committee Selects Him for Prize

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Doctor Ralph Steinman died on Friday, three days before someone from the Nobel committee called his number to let him know he had won the prize for his breakthrough work in immunology. Dr. Steinman had been battling pancreatic cancer for four years.

Nobel Prizes, however, cannot be awarded posthumously, so the Nobel committee faced a quandary.

“This is a unique situation — Steinman died hours before the decision was made,” Goran Hansson, secretary of the Nobel committee for physiology and medicine, told Swedish Radio News after the situation came to light. “News of his death was not made public. We had no idea, nor did they know at his place of work.”

The foundation’s nine-member board of directors met Monday afternoon and consulted lawyers concerning the interpretation of the statutes of the Nobel Foundation issued in 1974. The statutes hold that the Nobel Prize is not to be given posthumously, but if a person announced as a winner dies before receiving it at the Nobel ceremonies on December 10, the award remains valid.

Because Dr. Steinman’s award was made in good faith on the assumption that he was alive at the time of his election, he should receive it, the directors decided.

The drama overshadowed the fact that Dr. Steinman will be awarded one-half of the prize. Two other immunologists, Dr. Bruce A. Beutler and Dr. Jules A. Hoffman, will share the other half.

Dr. Steinman’s career-long quest was to develop a vaccine against cancer. Four and a half years ago, jaundiced from a spreading pancreatic cancer, he began tailoring an experimental vaccine against his own tumor.

Scientists who knew Dr. Steinman and his work said the Nobel committee had made the right decision.

Via NYT.

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Popular Contraceptive in Africa May Increase Transmission of HIV

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A new study by the University of Washington reveals that the most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa, a hormone shot given every three months, doubles the risk women will become infected with H.I.V. When it is used by H.I.V.-positive women, their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if the women had not used the contraceptive.

The findings are alarming, considering that hundreds of thousands of African women suffer bleeding, infections, injuries, and death from unintended pregnancies. As a result, inject-able hormones are very popular; about twelve million (6% of all) women between 15 and 49 in sub-Saharan Africa use them.

Many countries where pregnancy rates are highest are also ravaged by H.I.V.

The study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, involved nearly 4,000 couples. The research was presented at an international AIDS conference this summer.

At least two other studies have found that injectable contraceptives increase the risk of women’s acquirig H.I.V.

Via NYT.

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On This Day…

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In 1957, the Space Age began as the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, into orbit.

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