Wednesday, March 11, 2009


This week in Washington:
- Obama reverses Bush's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research
- A provision of the just-passed budget bill will help make contraception more affordable for many
- Today the White House launches a Women & Girls' Council, which hopefully will be more than symbolic

In Saudi Arabia, a 75-year-old widow has been sentenced to four months in prison, forty lashes, and deportation for having two unrelated men in her home. The two men -- one of whom is her deceased husband's nephew, and both of whom have also been sentenced -- were apparently bringing her some bread. Her lawyer plans to appeal. More at Religion Clause.

On a much less weighty note, a law professor at the University of Montana complains that the student newspaper's sex advice column "affects my reputation as a member of the faculty" -- no, really --and has suggested the state legislature should tighten restrictions on student publishing. According to the paper in question, the prof complained that legislators should set "criteria for giving someone a job as a columnist writing in an area of 'alleged expertise' or for reviewing objectionable material." Being a law prof, she's come up with proposed restrictions that just pass the First Amendment red-face test, but something tells me this isn't going anywhere. Are authors in student papers really expected to be experts? And what standards should the legislature set to qualify as a sex columnist?

Finally, Cook County, Ill. Sheriff Tom Dart is suing Craigslist, claiming its "erotic services" ads are a public nuisance. Sex worker rights advocates have, naturally, criticized the suit, which probably amounts to little more than a publicity stunt. Craigslist says it's "mystified" by the suit, pointing to its cooperation with law enforcement in Illinois and elsewhere to minimize use of the site to violate the law. One Internet law expert has opined that the lawsuit can't stand, because under federal law Craigslist can't be held liable for users who seek to violate the law unless it actively helps them do so. (Said lawyer also wonders whether there are actually many "erotic services" posts on Craigslist that are only advertising legal services, but a quick search of the many postings specifying "no sex" suggests that yes, there are; most of them are for pro-Dommes.)

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