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Namibia High Court Overturns Law That Banned Gay Relations 

A high court in Namibia has overturned a law that previously criminalized gay sex in what is being hailed as a victory for LGBTQ+ campaigners after their continuous, and difficult, fight for human rights in African countries. 

In 1990, Namibia adopted a law after gaining independence from South Africa that banned “sodomy” and “unnatural offenses” relating to the LGBTQ+ people. 

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“I feel elated. I’m so happy. This really is a landmark judgment, not just for me, but for our democracy,” said Friedel Dausab, the Namibian LGBTQ+ activist who brought the case.

“I’m sitting next to my mum and we’re hoping that this message filters through to all families, so that kids are no longer estranged.”

“What threat does a gay man pose to society, and who must be protected against him?” the judgment said. 

“We are of the firm view that the enforcement of private moral views of a section of a community (even if they form the majority of that community), which are based to a large extent on nothing more than prejudice, cannot qualify as such a legitimate purpose.”

UNAids, the UN agency that advocates for global action on HIV and Aids, said “the law had fuelled discrimination against LGBTQ+ Namibians in healthcare facilities and that the ruling would encourage more people to come forward for HIV testing and treatment.”

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“By decriminalizing same-sex relationships, Namibia creates a safer environment for LGBTQ+ communities,” said Anne Githuku-Shongwe, UNAids’ regional director for east and southern Africa.

According to the Human Dignity Trust, a UK legal charity, it revealed that of the 64 countries around the world that criminalize relationships between same-sex couples, 31 of them are in Africa. 

“In a pan-African survey of 34 countries conducted between 2019 and 2021, Namibia ranked as the third most tolerant on the question of how people felt about having gay neighbors, with 64% of respondents saying either that they would like it or not care about it,” wrote Rachel Savage for the Guardian

“The picture on progress in LGBTQ+ rights across Africa is mixed. Gay sex bans were lifted in Namibia’s neighbours Angola and Botswana, in 2021 and 2019 respectively. However, Uganda strengthened its anti-LGBTQ+ legislation last year, imposing the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, which includes gay sex with a disabled person or someone over the age of 75,” Savage concluded

sale

What’s Happening With Governor DeSantis’ Ban On Chinese Homeownership In Florida?

In May, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a bipartisan law, SB 264, which banned certain Chinese nationals from buying property within the state as a means of avoiding “the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida.” 

According to reports from NBC, a group of Chinese immigrants that are backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and additional civil rights groups, have been working to invalidate the new law, and the Justice Department even backed their effort in an official court filing this summer. The Justice Department stated that the law is unconstitutional, however, a judge ruled against that challenge back in August and settled with an appeal. 

Many workers within the real estate industry have stated their disdain for the law, claiming that it’s ambiguous and is fueling a major risk for discrimination against Chinese buyers. According to the law, sellers who violate the restrictions knowingly could face up to $1,000 in fines and one year in prison while Chinese nationals who buy property in Florida face up to 5 years in prison and even higher fines. 

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Khalid Muneer of the Greater Orlando chapter of the Asian American Realtors Association recently spoke to the media regarding the discriminations and difficulties this law created. 

“Are we supposed to be FBI agents investigating people and asking them all kinds of questions?”

A veteran Florida real estate agent, Frank Lin, told the media that his business has been cut in half due to the fact that he has to turn down clients to comply with the law. 

Additionally, Chinese nationals who already own property in Florida “are required by the new law to register with the state’s Commerce Department, but they don’t even have a form yet or place or website, so that’s confusing everyone. Failure to register by 2024 could trigger fines of up to $1,000 a day,” Lin said

According to a Florida Commerce Department spokesperson, “a hearing is set for this week over a proposed rule on the registration requirement, the agency is dedicated to implementing SB 264 as outlined in law.” 

Muneer spoke further on the discriminations that this law has created and the potential hostility it could create. 

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“If somebody comes in and is Asian-looking, you’re automatically going to start asking questions about where you’re from, which never used to happen.”

Many Asian American community members are viewing the Florida law as resembling xenophobic “alien land laws” of the early 20th century, which were later deemed unconstitutional. 

The restrictions of the law cover both commercial and residential properties and apply to all Chinese nationals who aren’t US citizens or permanent residents and/or already owning property in China. 

“If somebody comes in and is Asian-looking, you’re automatically going to start asking questions about where you’re from, which never used to happen,” said Khalid Muneer, founder of Jupiter Properties in Central Florida and president of the Greater Orlando chapter of the Asian American Realtors Association.

“Is this racism? Is this stereotyping? We are very well aware of the fact that we can have issues. We can be accused of discrimination. Some of [my] associates with heavily Chinese or Venezuelan clientele have seen a major, major drop in business,” Muneer said.

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In recent months, some of the realtors are afraid to deal with [Chinese nationals] because they are looking at getting prosecuted for ‘not doing their job.’ But then again, are we supposed to be FBI agents investigating people and asking them all kinds of questions?” Muneer continued

“The law is upending peoples’ lives.”

Florida in general receives about 23% of all foreign buyers throughout the US, the highest percentage of any state, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

NBC reported that five percent of Florida’s closed sales were to foreign buyers, according to a separate report from Florida Realtors. However, the bulk of Florida’s foreign buyers are Latin American, at 46%, and Canadian, at 24%. Among Chinese buyers, California is the most popular destination, drawing 33% of Chinese buyers to Florida’s 16%.”

“When you get a situation like this, where your main cash buyers are not allowed to buy, it does start hurting the market as well as sales agents who will depend on those sales for their living,” Muneer stated. 

Gregory Burge, an economist, said “ownership bans like Florida’s don’t make a lot of sense from an economic standpoint. Top talent coming from these nations would certainly involve families wanting to retain their citizenship in their home countries, and then facing the barrier of buying in Florida under the new law,” he said. “That could act as a negative factor for slowing economic growth.”

stage

Olivia Wilde Speaks Out For The First Time Over Being Served Child Custody Papers At CinemaCon

In the recent CinemaCon, the ticketed industry convention for theater exhibitors, Olivia Wilde was looking forward to introducing her latest film “Don’t Worry Darling” to the people in attendance. 

As Wilde was getting ready to show some footage for the new movie, she was handed an envelope which was originally perceived as containing a script. Within the envelope actually contained child custody papers that were from her former partner, Jason Sudeikis. 

“Mr. Sudeikis had no prior knowledge of the time or place that the envelope would have been delivered as this would solely be up to the process service company involved and he would never condone her being served in such an inappropriate manner,” read a statement that was on behalf of Sudeikis. 

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Wilde has just spoken to sources about the incident for the first time since it occurred this past April. 

Wilde said to Variety that she felt it was “deeply painful” for her children to be involved in a matter that should’ve remained private. 

“It was my workplace. In any other workplace, it would be seen as an attack. It was really upsetting. It shouldn’t have been able to happen.”

After she received the envelope, she carried on in a professional manner and further continued her presentation on “Don’t Worry Darling.”

Wilde felt very frustrated that an instance like this had distracted so many from the work that many different people and workers from the studio were trying to present to the public. 

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“To try to sabotage that was really vicious. But I had a job to do; I’m not easily distracted,” said Wilde. But the incident also didn’t leave her surprised that it was something that actually happened. 

In her recent cover story with Variety, Wilde also recently revealed that she had to make the hard decision to push back her next project, “Perfect,” which was originally planned to start production this summer. 

With all the recent events, Wilde felt like now wasn’t the right time to be away from her children and to dedicate the long hours on-set as a director. 

Since her next film “Perfect,” also went back into development, Wilde believed that she also needed a break and that it was also time for her to be a stay-at-home mom for a while. 

“It was not the year for me to be on a set, which is totally all-encompassing. It was time for me to pause and devote myself to the kids when I have them,” said Wilde.

Same Sex Marriage

Japan Courts Say Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Is Constitutional 

A Japanese court ruled this week that a ban on same-sex marriage is not considered unconstitutional, marking a major setback to LGBTQ rights in the only Group Of Seven nations that does not allow same-sex marriages. 

Three same-sex couples filed the original suit in a district court in Osaka. The courts rejected the claim that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, as well as rejected the couples demands for 1 million yen ($7,600) in damages. Machi Sakata, who was able to marry her partner legally in the US, spoke to the media about the ruling. 

“I actually wonder if the legal system in this country is really working. I think there’s the possibility this ruling may really corner us in the community.”

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Japan’s constitution defines marriage as “being based on the mutual consent of both sexes.” There’s been a major rise in LGBTQ advocacy throughout Japan as of late, leaving many citizens hopeful that this court case would rule in favor of the community.

However, the Osaka court ruled that “marriage is defined as being only between opposite genders,” and not enough debating has occurred within Japan to make a proper ruling over same-sex marriage. 

“We emphasized in this case that we wanted same-sex couples to have access to the same things as regular couples,” said lawyer Akiyoshi Miwa, who also claimed they would be appealing the court’s decision. 

While Japanese law in general is considered to be fairly liberal when compared to other Asian law standards, Taiwan is the only country to have legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in the continent. 

The current law in Japan states that same-sex couples cannot get legally married, are not allowed to inherit each other’s assets, and cannot gain parental rights over each other’s children. 

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Partnership certificates in the country allow same-sex couples to rent property together and have hospital visitation rights, but it doesn’t compare to the full legal rights granted to heterosexual couples in the nation.

The Tokyo prefectural government made some strides in protecting LGBTQ rights last week when they passed a bill that would recognize same-sex partnership agreements. This means more than half of the population in Japan will have the ability to gain recognition for their partnerships from local governments. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida claimed that the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage needs to be carefully considered, however, his party has made no set plans to review the matter or propose new legislation. 

Masa Yanagisawa is the head of prime services at Goldman Sachs and a board member for the LGBTQ activist group “Marriage For All Japan,” who stated that legalizing same-sex marriage would have “far-reaching implications both socially and economically, as well as help attract foreign firms to the world’s third biggest economy.” 

“International firms are reviewing their Asian strategy and LGBTQ inclusivity is becoming a topic. International businesses don’t want to invest in a location that isn’t LGBTQ-friendly,” Yanagisawa stated before the verdict this week.

France Now Legally Requires Vaccine Pass From Citizens 

The French government passed a bill this weekend that legally requires citizens to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want access to cultural events, theme parks, restaurants, bars, and other public places where social gathering is normalized. 

The bill was passed on Sunday, and will likely begin to be enforced on Friday January 21st. Initially, European countries were using the EU Digital Covid Certificate to allow EU citizens to travel freely within EU countries; similar to the vaccine passes we have on our phones in America depending on where you live. 

Previously any citizen who is fully vaccinated, who has had Covid-19, or who can show proof of a negative Covid test was able to travel across EU borders freely. Each state within the EU, however, is responsible for their own system when it comes to vaccination requirements. 

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The French government has now made it a legal requirement to have a Vaccine Pass in order to go to public spaces or travel in or out of the country; a negative Covid-19 test will no longer be enough. 

The French senate voted in favor of the vaccine passes this past Sunday, which was the final government body that had to approve the bill before it can be made into law, which is expected to happen this Friday. 

90% of French people over the age of 12 are already vaccinated, so this new law will not impact them. Anyone who is not vaccinated, however, will be prohibited from eating out, going to theaters, or traveling long distances. 

There are a couple of exceptions to the new bill as well. Children between the ages of 12-16 will only be required to use a Health Pass; which is what most vaccinated EU citizens are currently using. This means kids within that age bracket can continue to use a negative test to stay up-to-date on their requirements. 

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Unvaccinated individuals will still have access to long-distance buses and trains if there is an “imperative reason of a family or health nature,” according to the bill. A negative test result will be allowed in the case of a dying relative or similar health emergency in which travel is required. 

The vaccination pass will not be required in hotels and holiday cottages unless the owners decide to enforce it. Owners have the right to refuse business to anyone and can make it a requirement as well for any traveler trying to stay at their establishment. Any communal spaces within these hotels, such as bars or restaurants, will be required to check for Vaccine Passes regardless. 

France defines an individual as “fully vaccinated” once their at least one week away from their second dose of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine, or one month away from their single Janssen dose. 

If the most recent vaccine dose was over 7 months ago, the individual must get a booster in order to maintain their Vaccine Pass and keep it active. 

For individuals living outside of France, a vaccine is required to enter the country. Travelers arriving from a non-EU country are also required to provide a negative Covid-19 test in addition to being vaccinated. 

Europe’s Proposed Artificial Intelligence Law Could Cost Its Economy $36 Billion 

A new law proposed for the European Union designed to regulate artificial intelligence could cost the nation up to 32 billion euros; about $36 billion. The payments would be spread out over five years according to a report from the Center for Data Innovation, a Washington-based think tank. 

The Artificial Intelligence Act is a proposed law put forward by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU. The act is said to be the :world’s most restrictive regulation of AI” according to the center. 

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“It will not only limit AI development and use in Europe but impose significant costs on EU businesses and consumers.”

The Center for Data Innovation argued that a small or midsize enterprise with a turnover of 10 million euros will face compliance costs of up to 400,000 euros if it was to deploy an AI system deemed “high risk.” These systems are ones that the commission defines as “affecting people’s fundamental rights or safety.” 

“That designation sweeps in a broad swath of potential applications — from critical infrastructure to educational and vocational training — subjecting them to a battery of requirements before companies can bring them to market,” the center said.

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The center argues that “compliance borders” will cost European businesses 10.9 billion euros per year by 2025, or 31 billion euros over the next five years. Ben Mueller, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation and author of the report suggested that this would be more harmful than helpful to many sectors of the economy. 

“The Commission has repeatedly asserted that the draft AI legislation will support growth and innovation in Europe’s digital economy, but a realistic economic analysis suggests that argument is disingenuous at best.”

“The rosy outlook is largely based on opinions and shibboleths rather than logic and market data,” he added, explaining that AI is already being used by major companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook, but lawmakers in Europe aren’t even aware of the impact this new law could have. 

Mueller explained that the technology has the potential to improve healthcare and climate modeling for the nation, however, it can also be used to give every citizen a “social score.” The law is still in the works and the debates over its actual benefits are ongoing.

Striped Cat

UK Cat Owners May Be Forced To Microchip Their Pets Due To Increase In Thefts 

The millions of cat owners in the United Kingdom may soon be forced to microchip their furry friends, or face fines for refusal, due to new government policies that are working to prevent feline theft, which has been on the rise within the past year for the nation. 

Police data in the UK shows that the number of cats being stolen has tripled within the past five years; with a notable 12.3% increase last year alone. Owners are now being called upon to microchip their cats the same way dogs are so in the case of a petnapping, they’ll be easier to track down; and it will be easier to find the perpetrator. 

Local media reports wrote that  “a microchipping measure, which means animals can be tracked and identified if stolen and resold, is being introduced as part of a package of changes by a ministerial taskforce to combat the growing black market in stolen pets. Those who do not get their cats registered will face a fine of up to £500.”

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Robert Buckland is the UK’s justice secretary who’s running the taskforce for this initiative alongside Priti Patel and George Eustice, the home and environment secretaries. One government spokesperson spoke to the press this week about these new measures:

“Last month the home secretary, the lord chancellor and the environment secretary met to discuss a cross-government approach to combating this issue and we will announce next steps in due course. This builds upon the huge amounts of work already undertaken by junior ministers and officials to address this cruel and criminal practice.”

Stefan Blakiston Moore, an advocacy and government relations officer for Cats Protection, said: “It is a Conservative manifesto commitment [for cats to be legally microchipped] so we hope they will come forward with this. Cats Protection has been campaigning for it for a number of years. We are waiting for a response to that but we are hopeful a positive change will come and compulsory microchipping is brought in.”

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Moore explained that currently in the “UK there are 2.6 million cats that are not microchipped. It is usually a significant amount of cats and the risk is when they go missing or are stolen as has been reported. Without a microchip it is extremely difficult to reunite them with their owners.”

Ministers are also considering a ban on all cash purchases of pets as a means of stopping the black market for pet trading; one of the largest black markets in the world besides drugs. Some cat breeds can sell for over $2,000, and lockdown has led to a major surge in dog and cat sales, which has led to an increase in pet theft. 

“There is a thriving black market in cash sales of animals, no questions asked. A cash ban is appealing because we know it crippled the stolen scrap metal industry and microchipping is absolutely central to the way in which animals’ welfare is maintained,” a senior government source told the press.

The bill is currently being discussed among ministers in the UK, and a decision will likely be reached in the coming month.

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Kids at Lunch

California Bans “Lunch Shaming” And Guarantees Meals For All Its Students

Ryan Kyote is a third grader who made headlines this year for his huge act of kindness. However, what started as a heartwarming story about giving back, quickly turned into a negative commentary about the current state of funding for our public school systems, and discussions over social class advantages. Kyote’s elementary school had a system for buying school lunches, which cost on average $3.25, that stated if a child couldn’t afford to buy a lunch they could begin accumulating a debt with the school that would eventually have to be paid off. The school claimed that even if a child had a negative account balance that they could still purchase a meal, however, after a few times families were strongly discouraged against accumulating even more debt for their child. Ryan was devastated when he learned about how many of his classmates were going without lunches everyday. So out of the kindness of his own heart, he saved up enough of his allowance money to pay off his entire third grade classes lunch debt, which totaled $74.50.

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“I want them just to realize people actually think about them instead of just telling them what they did because you’re just bragging about stuff. I want them to feel happy that someone cares about them,” Ryan said.

When this story first began circulating it took the tone of an inspiring good deed news story with a happy ending. However, that mood greatly shifted when people began to ask, “isn’t it kind of messed up that a 9 year old is putting more initiative into our public school funding problems than our actual government?” And those individuals were not alone in their concern. Soon the story began trending nationwide, and people from all over were sharing similar stories of young students taking initiative to make sure all children are taken care of equally. The disapproval of the school systems inner workings also began to be brought more into light, and everyone was beginning to realize that this is a serious nationwide dilemma and something needed to be done. 

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So, California, Kyote’s resident state, decided to take action and draw inspiration from the 9 year old’s advanced work ethic and desire to do right by our nation’s students. Specifically, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a measure into law that guarantees state-funded lunches to be given to all public school students regardless of any student debt or unpaid meal fees, according to The Hill Magazine. It also specifically outlaws “lunch shaming” a form of bullying that also came into discussion when Ryan Kyote’s story went viral. Many schools across the country have much cheaper alternative lunch options for its students who are struggling financially. The lunches normally look much simpler and less inclusive than the standard option, which has caused bullying based on socioeconomic status to flourish. The law guarantees that no school will tolerate any form of shaming or bullying between students in regards to lunch debts or general financial situations, and in addition the law amends “the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017 by requiring school districts, charter schools and education agencies to invalidate policies that ask officials to give alternative meals to students with unpaid fees,” according to The Hill.

While it can universally be agreed upon that our country’s elementary school students should never have to take world policy and funding issues into their own hands, Ryan Kyote definitely is a huge inspiration for evoking a real change. Not only did his act of empathy and kindness warm the hearts of millions of Americans, but it actually made a legal difference. 

“Creating a ‘California for All’ means ensuring schools are inclusive, accepting, and welcoming of all kids,” Newsom said to The Hill before Ryan Kyote for bringing national attention to the issue. “He showed how at many schools across the country, students whose parents are not able to pay for their lunch are given a cheaper, ‘alternative’ lunch that causes them to stick out from their peers, which isn’t right. We thank Ryan for his empathy and his courage in bringing awareness to this important issue, and inspiring a real change.”