California Passes ‘Yes Means Yes’ Law, Defines Sexual Consent

affirmative consent law passed by Jerry Brown

Governor Jerry Brown broke ground in California by approving a law that enforces affirmative consent. Image: via ca.gov

California broke ground earlier this week when it became the first state to define sexual consent as a means to proactively prevent sexual assault and rape, and to better advocate for survivors of sexual crimes.

Reports NPR’s Bill Chappell, “Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law that makes California the first in the nation to have a clear definition of when people agree to sex. The law goes further than the common ‘no means no’ standard, which has been blamed for bringing ambiguity into investigations of sexual assault cases.” SB-967, or the “Yes Means Yes” law, represents a milestone for women’s rights and serves as an active enforcer of sexual consent on college campuses in the state of California.

The Department of Education is currently investigating at least 55 colleges and universities for “violating federal law in their handling of sexual violence and harassment cases,” reports Chappell. College campuses, and specifically college fraternities, are notorious for being an environment rife with rape and sexual assault. Defining consent in legal terms, and progressive ones at that, will hopefully curb instances of sexual violence.

SB-967 defines consent as follows:

“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.

The way this law frames “Affirmative Consent” is so critical; SB-967 explains that the absence of “no” is not consent, nor is another person’s silence. Hopefully, this law will prevent more sexual assaults from occurring on college campuses and beyond, and will allow victims of sexual crimes to feel safer about coming forward.

Read the law in full by visiting California Legislative Information.

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Military Officials Endorse Obama’s Plan to Train Syrian Rebels

Washington D.C.

IMG: via Shutterstock

Before a key House vote, a group of prominent U.S. diplomatic and military officials urged Congress to approve President Obama’s plan to train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), reports The Hill. September in particular has been fraught with political unrest because of mounting Middle Eastern turmoil; Obama has come forward on multiple occasions to discuss the plan of action moving forward, which has left many Americans deeply concerned about the future of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Earlier this month, President Obama announced a plan to “equip moderate Syrian opposition rebels to fight ISIS,” a strategy that was to be voted upon by the House of Representatives. This plan would entail U.S. military personnel training more than 5,000 Syrian rebels over the course of a year. Prior to the vote, many military officials gave their support, including David Petraeus, former military general and chairman of KKR’s Global Institute, former Ambassadors Ryan C. Crocker and Robert S. Ford, and retired General Jack M. Keane, who collectively composed a letter supporting the President’s plan for the House Armed Services Committee.

In the letter, the diplomatic and military officials wrote, “We write to express our strong support for Congressional authorization of the provision of assistance and training to properly vetted members of the Syrian opposition,” proclaiming their endorsement of Obama’s strategy. “The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is simultaneously fighting both the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad and the barbaric [ISIS],” they explain, adding, “Providing greater assistance to FSA is the United States’ best opportunity to develop a moderate force that is capable of defeating ISIS and bringing about a post-Assad Syria that is free of terror.”

According to Business Insider, “The House of Representatives passed an amendment on Wednesday that will give President Barack Obama the authority to arm and train moderate elements of the Syrian opposition, a key part of the president’s strategy for confronting the extremist group [ISIS],” of the decision to move forward with the proposal. With the support of military and foreign affairs insiders, the United States will move forward to eradicate the horrific violence caused by ISIS.

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Emma Watson: “It is Right that I am Afforded the Same Respect As Men”

Over the weekend, Emma Watson delivered an inspired speech at the United Nations Headquarters to promote a gender equality initiative called He For She, and to discuss the importance of feminism. Her compelling, poignant speech earned the 24-year-old actress and humanitarian a standing ovation, and has been dubbed a “game-changer” by myriad publications.

In the speech, Watson discussed why feminism was a natural choice for her, and why it is a loaded term for others. She said, “I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, [feminists are] seen as too strong, too aggressive, anti-men, unattractive,” of the reasons many men and women rebuff this term and its ideologies. On the contrary, Watson explains, feminism is, at its core, the belief in the equality of the sexes.

In one of the most inspired portions of the speech, Watson asks the audience, “Why has the word become such an unpopular one?” She goes on to explain, “I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men,” listing examples of gender inequality that women around the world face each and every day.

For years, Emma Watson has been adored by audiences around the world for her performances in major motion pictures. Millions of people have seen her perform as an actress, but few have seen her address an audience like she did in her recent speech. As a newly appointed UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, Watson now has a platform to address social injustices such as gender inequality. If her passionate delivery this past weekend was any indication of what we can expect to see from the young feminist, it’s safe to say that she will be instrumental in creating social change.

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Scotland Votes to Stay in UK

Scotland countryside

Earlier this week, the Scottish majority voted to remain part of the U.K. / Image: Antonio Cinotti via Flickr CC.

In a record-breaking national referendum, Scottish voters decided to remain in the United Kingdom (UK) on Friday, with 55.3 percent of voters rejecting independence.

The final decision was announced at 6:10 AM local time (1:10AM EST) when Fife announced its results, pushing the ‘No’ campaign over the 50 percent threshold needed to secure victory. When the final votes were tallied, ‘No’ had 2,001,926 votes (or 55.3%) and ‘Yes’ had received 1,616,989 (44.7%). Notable cities that fell into the ‘Yes’ camp were West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, and Dundee, while the ‘No’ camp contained Stirling and Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.

Alex Salmond Scotland

Alex Salmond, Scottish First Minister. / Image: via Twitter.

There was a record turnout among Scottish voters. Nationally, more than 84 percent of registered voters turned out with many local municipalities reporting participation results in the 90 percent range. In fact, according to reports, the northwestern peninsula community of Knoydart collected votes from 100 percent of its 98 registered voters. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, one of the pro-independence leaders, has toted the turnout as “a triumph for the democratic process.”

According to CCN, Salmond, who is also the Scottish first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, announced his resignation upon hearing news of the voting outcome. “We now have the opportunity to hold Westminster’s feet to the fire on the ‘vow’ that they have made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland,” he said in a statement.

While the silent majority was victorious, the ‘Yes’ campaign successfully made their voices heard not only on a national, but also on a global stage. On a national scale, the ‘Yes’ campaign caught the attention of Prime Minister David Cameron, who earlier in the week made an emotional plea for Scotland to remain in the U.K. Additionally, following the resulting rejection of independence, Cameron promised the drafting of laws to provide Scotland’s regional parliament more power in UK politics.

The U.K. had not experienced a referendum with such incredible implications since the Acts of Union in 1707, which officially joined England and Scotland to create Great Britain.

For more information about yesterday’s results, read NBC’s full coverage of the story.

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Hurricane Odile Ravages Baja California

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Hurricanes like Odile have the potential to ravage coastal towns. / Image: drpavloff via Flickr CC

Hurricane Odile slammed into Baja California, the northernmost state of Mexico, which is home to many luxury resorts, in the early morning hours on Monday September 15th. Odile tore through Cabo San Lucas Sunday evening around 9:45PM PDT according to the US National Hurricane Center. Tourists and locales took shelter in Los Cabos and other resorts Sunday in expectation of Odile’s arrival. Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters reports that this is the strongest hurricane to strike the Baja coast since 1967.

According to Dr. Masters, “Since July, the Eastern Pacific has had ocean temperatures about 0.6°c above average and win shear about 20% below average. The region has been dominated by moist, rising air and low pressure, leading to above average vertical instability. All of these factors are favorable for an active hurricane season,” of what we can expect to see in the next few months.

Hurricane Odile was a Category 3 storm when it made landfall. A storm of Category 3 strength can produce sustained winds of up to 115 mph in addition to large volumes of rainfall. The storm produced 24-foot tall waves, prompting the Mexican government to urge caution on local fisherman and any others near the coastal waters.

Odile has produced dangerous amounts of flooding and rainfall, which have prompted evacuations and required many people be rescued, stranded in their cars. Additional rainfall anywhere between 6–15 inches can be expected along the Baja coast, according to the Weather Channel. Combined with hurricane-force winds, these large volumes of rainfall are especially dangerous because they can cause flash floods and mudslides.

Luis Felipe Puente, head of Mexico’s national public safety department, reported on the damages to Cabo San Lucas via his Twitter account. While there were several reports of injuries, mostly due to falling glass, there have been no deaths yet to be reported. Early estimates put roughly 200,000 people without electricity in Odile’s wake.

Mexican officials are urging all people in the area to “take extreme precautions and remain alert.”

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