San Juan, Philippines – In this Metropolitan Manila city – San Juan – it is illegal to be seen half-naked in public. It can mean a fine or up to three to five days in the city jail.
The city government has banned people from appearing half-naked or shirtless in public places as it noted that being a “premier urban center,” San Juan must “set an example of orderliness, propriety and decency.” “No person shall move about (i.e. walk, jog, run or the like) in public places and outside his public (sic) residence half-naked or wearing clothing covering only the lowermost portion of the body without any top apparel,” said a provision in the ordinance approved and passed by the city council and Mayor Guia Gomez months ago.
The ordinance applies to everybody, including babies. Although Section 2 refers only to people who go out in public without any upper clothing, Section 3 defines “half-naked” as either topless or bottomless, specifically, “wearing clothing covering only the lowermost or uppermost portion of the body with the absence of any top or bottom apparel.”
Yesterday, a Filipino man whose name was withheld by authorities was arrested for bathing completely naked in his front yard using a garden hose. Hours later, he was released for lack of sufficient evidence to charge him with misdemeanor related to the new ordinance. The man’s lawyer, Atty. Pedro Batongbakal, said that his client did not violate the law since the new ordinance says nothing about appearing in public “completely ” naked. He said the language of the ordinance is clear that a violation consists of being “either” topless or bottomless, not both.
The city’s prosecuting attorney did not challenge Batongbakal’s argument, so the man was immediately released.
San Francisco, California – For more than 30 years, chess games have been a street institution in downtown San Francisco but earlier this month, the San Francisco Police Department confiscated the playing equipment, chairs and tables from Market and Fifth Streets where dozens of people, mostly homeless, veterans and aspiring chess masters, would gather every day to play.
Police said that regular chess players weren’t the problem but that the area had become a hotbed for illegal gambling and drug use. The displaced chess aficionados disputed the police reason for the crackdown and said that they were being used as a scapegoat for SFPD’s inability to curb illegal activity in the area.
A group of concerned freedom-loving citizens of San Francisco responded by establishing a donation drive to collect handheld electronic chess consoles to be distributed to those displaced by the police action.
“We can’t believe that of all cities in the country, San Francisco would be the one to ban, of all things – the game of chess — depriving citizens of their right of the ‘pursuit of happiness,’ ” said drive organizers Gary Torre and Nestor Kasparov.
On the first day of the drive, hundreds of new handheld electronic chess games were delivered to the makeshift collection center at the corner of Powell and Market Streets.
Kasparov said that with the handheld electronic chess games, there would be no need for the chess players to set up tables and chairs and there would be no reason for the police to drive them away from Market Street. Kasparov added: “We are aware, however, of the ‘sit and lie’ ordinance in San Francisco prohibiting individuals from sitting or lying in the sidewalks. So we have advised chess players to be always on their feet while playing the electronic chess games.”
Sacramento, California – California Governor Jerry Brown has found a solution to the state’s prison overcrowding. The solution is in The Netherlands.
The Netherlands recently announced that it will close eight prisons because of a lack of criminals. The Dutch justice ministry said that declining crime rates in the Netherlands mean that although the country has the capacity for 14,000 prisoners, there are only 12,000 detainees. The decrease is expected to continue, the ministry said.
Earlier, Brown faced a serious dilemma on how to reduce California’s prison overcrowding to below 137 percent of capacity by the end of 2013, as ordered by the Federal Courts. A three-judge special panel ruled in 2009 that widespread overcrowding in California prisons is unconstitutional because it constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.” The US Supreme Court upheld that ruling in 2011 and 2012 when the Department of Corrections had failed to act. A federal judge ordered the state to release thousands of low-level offenders before their sentences expired.
Prison facilities operated at 200 percent capacity for more than a decade.
“Building new prisons is not an option,” Brown said. “We can’t afford to spend taxpayer money to erect more jails which is only a temporary solution.”
So, rather than sending prisoners to various county jails which is opposed by most local governments, or releasing prisoners before their time is served, Brown said that California will lease the eight prisons in The Netherlands and transfer some 2,000 of its heavy offenders and those with longer jail sentences.
The Dutch government appears to be receptive to Brown’s idea and is contemplating on renting out the Dutch prisons to California at below market rates. Final negotiations are underway.
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