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5th Family Justice Center Opens in South Bend, Ind.
Legal Career News | 2007/02/22 19:02

The Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County opened its doors today, the Justice Department and the City of South Bend announced. The center, located in South Bend, Ind., is the final center to be opened under President Bush’s Family Justice Center Initiative, and is located in one of 15 communities chosen under the President’s Initiative to prevent and respond to violence against women.

The President’s Family Justice Center Initiative, which was unveiled by President Bush in October 2003 and funded by the Justice Department, is an unprecedented pilot program designed to make a victim’s search for assistance more effective by bringing the necessary services together under one roof. The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has guided this pilot program with the goal of using these centers as models for how communities should provide coordinated domestic violence services across the country.

“Offering coordinated and centralized services for domestic violence victims is how our communities can better respond to violence against women,” said Mary Beth Buchanan, Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women. “We hope that these centers will serve as models for other communities to duplicate across the country.”

The services in communities designed to help victims of domestic violence are often fragmented and uncoordinated. Centers like the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County are designed to bring together various components, including victim advocates, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, probation officers, forensic medical professionals, civil legal attorneys, chaplains, and representatives from community-based organizations into one centralized location to better serve victims of abuse.

Through the President’s Intiative, the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County received extensive technical assistance from the original family justice center based in San Diego, Cailf., to aid in the comprehensive development. Additional technical assistance was provided by centers in Indianapolis, Ind. and Hennepin County, Minn. Additionally, the National Network to End Domestic Violence provided the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County with assistance in technology and victim safety.

UN nuclear chief: Iran has refused to halt enrichment
Legal World News | 2007/02/22 17:00

Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment program instead of complying with a UN Security Council ultimatum to freeze it, the UN nuclear watchdog agency said Thursday. The finding clears the path for harsher Security Council sanctions against Teheran.  "Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities," said the International Atomic Energy Agency, basing its information on material available to it as of Saturday. The conclusion - while widely expected - was important because it could serve as the trigger for the council to start deliberating on new sanctions meant to punish Teheran for its nuclear intransigence.

In a report written by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, the agency also said that the Islamic republic continues construction of a reactor that will use heavy water and a heavy water production plant - also in defiance of the Security Council.

Both enriched uranium and plutonium produced by heavy water reactors can produce the fissile material used in nuclear warheads. Iran denies such intentions, saying it needs the heavy water reactor to produce radioactive isotopes for medical and other peaceful purposes and enrichment to generate energy.

The six-page report obtained by The Associated Press also said that agency experts remain "unable ... to make further progress in its efforts to verify fully the past development of Iran's nuclear program" due to lack of Iranian cooperation. That, too, put it in violation of the Security Council, which on Dec. 23 told Teheran to "provide such access and cooperation as the agency requests to be able to verify ... all outstanding issues" within 60 days.

Britain's Prince Harry going to Iraq
Legal World News | 2007/02/22 16:59
Prince Harry will be sent to Iraq, Britain's Ministry of Defence said Thursday. He will join his regiment, the Blues and Royals, in Iraq as part of a long-planned rotation of troops. He will become the first royal to see combat since his uncle, Prince Andrew, served in the Falklands war against Argentina in 1982. The Defence Ministry has said he might be kept out of situations where his presence could jeopardize his comrades.

Zimbabwe police ban political rallies in capital
Legal World News | 2007/02/22 10:55
Police imposed a three-month ban on political rallies and protests Wednesday in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare after a political rally held Sunday by opposition group Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Despite a court order instructing police not to interfere with the rally, police used tear-gas and water cannons to break up the crowd gathered to see Morgan Tsvangirai begin his presidential campaign. Opposition group members said police chased and beat people and made several arrests. The police force said the ban was necessary to prevent further disorder.

DOJ unveils religious discrimination education initiative
Headline News | 2007/02/22 02:53

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales unveiled the First Freedom Project (FFP) Tuesday afternoon, a new Department of Justice initiative aimed at stricter enforcement of laws against religious discrimination and educating the public about their rights in this area. The DOJ will hold training seminars across the US in conjunction with the program, and the FFP website includes instructions on how to file a religious discrimination complaint with the DOJ. The program was prompted by a DOJ report, also released Tuesday, that describes how the DOJ's Civil Rights Division has "dramatically increased enforcement" of religious discrimination laws between 2001 and 2006.

Gonzales made the following remarks during a Wednesday meeting of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention:

The Department of Justice has actively pursued cases involving religion not just in access to education and public facilities, but in equal access to housing, lending, and employment as well. Over the past six years, we have had many successes. We've launched scores of investigations involving religious discrimination in education and housing, a sharp and marked increase in the Justice Department's enforcement of these important federal protections. We have fought to maintain and make clear the crucial distinction between improper government speech endorsing religion and constitutionally protected private speech endorsing religion.

Why should it be permissible for an employee standing around the water cooler to declare that 'Tiger Woods is God,' but a firing offense for him to say 'Jesus is Lord'? These are the kinds of contradictions we are trying to address...

As part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen and preserve religious liberty in this country, I am unveiling today a new initiative: the First Freedom Project. Under this program, the Department will build on our extensive record of achievement in this area and commit to even greater enforcement of religious rights for all Americans.

TX legislators move to rescind governor's HPV vaccine order
Legal Career News | 2007/02/22 02:51
Lawmakers in Texas advanced a bill Wednesday to rescind the governor's executive order requiring that school-age girls receive a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. The House of Representatives' Public Health Committee voted 6-3 in favor of the bill, which is sponsored by more than 90 of the 150 House members. The bill provides, in part, that "immunization against the human papilloma virus may not be required for a person's admission to any elementary or secondary school," and it explicitly pre-empts "all contrary executive orders of the governor." The committee voted after hearing hours of public testimony late into the night Monday. The House committee also unanimously approved another bill designed to increase public awareness of HPV and the vaccine.

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