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May 13, 2014

A controversial bill in Iraq, proposed by former Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari and passed by the cabinet, would allow girls to be considered adults at age 9 and thus able to marry, NPR reports.

Known as the Jaafari law (after a school of Islam of the same name), it still has to make its way through the parliament. No action will likely be taken until after Iraq forms its new government, following last month's elections. If passed, the law will be voluntary and will only apply to the country's Shia Muslim majority.

Those who oppose the law say that despite some new freedoms in Iraq — more travel opportunities and internet access, for example — women's rights are not moving forward and conservative religious politics are becoming more mainstream. "We know the state of women in Iraq is getting worse, despite the intellectual openness that women had benefited from following the American occupation and the removal of the regime," lawyer Fawzia al-Babakhan told NPR.

In the end, the law is unlikely to be passed — it was likely an electoral overture to conservative Shiites — but it is still unsettling to radio host Ahlam al-Obeidi. "We are a society plagued by patriarchal attitudes and outdated tribal laws, which are all conducive to violence against women," she said to NPR. "This is not marriage, but rather the selling and buying of young women." --Catherine Garcia

12:40 a.m.

Explorers searched for the "Lost City of the Monkey God" for decades, and once a team of conservationists had the opportunity to traverse the elusive area, they were thrilled with what they discovered.

Deep inside Honduras' Mosquitia rainforest, the team found 246 species of butterflies and moths, 30 species of bats, and 57 species of amphibians and reptiles. They discovered 22 species never before recorded in Honduras — including a fish that has likely never been found anywhere else — and species thought to be extinct, including the tiger beetle. The ancient settlement is "one of the few areas remaining in Central America where ecological and evolutionary processes remain intact," Trond Larsen, director of Conservation International's Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), told the Independent.

The conservationists were dropped off in the area by helicopter, and spent three weeks exploring. The pristine setting is vulnerable to illegal deforestation, and RAP's John Polisar said he is hopeful Honduras' government will make sure safeguarded. "Because of its presently intact forests and fauna, the area is of exceptionally high conservation value," he told the Independent. "It merits energetic and vigilant protection so its beauty and wildlife persist into the future." Catherine Garcia

12:18 a.m.

President Trump's latest denial that he raped writer E. Jean Carroll in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s goes as follows, in an interview Monday with The Hill: "I'll say it with great respect: Number one, she's not my type. Number two, it never happened. It never happened, okay?" Trump has used similar language in denying some of the other dozen-plus public allegations of sexual assault against him, and also about one woman, Stormy Daniels, whom he paid $130,000 to stay quiet about their purported extramarital tryst.

Trump went on to tell The Hill that Carroll is "totally lying," that he knows "nothing about this woman," and that it's "just a terrible thing that people can make statements like that." On CNN Monday night, Carroll deadpanned to Anderson Cooper, "I love that I'm not his type." But she retold her story, which two friends say she shared with them at the time of the alleged rape, 23 years ago, and there is some similarity between her tale of shopping with Trump and Trump's recorded boast about grabbing women by the genitals that surfaced in the 2016 campaign.

Carroll described Trump's response to the myriad sexual assault allegations against him as: "He denies, he turns it around, he threatens, and he attacks." And that's true in this case, whether you believe Carroll or Trump. Peter Weber

June 24, 2019

Several Democrats in the House are struggling with the idea of backing a $4.5 billion emergency aid package, as they want to help detained migrants but worry that the money will somehow be used to carry out President Trump's promised deportation raids.

The House is planning a vote on Tuesday, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spent Monday evening meeting with Democrats who have issues with the bill, The New York Times reports. Pelosi has said the measure "does not fund the administration's failed mass detention policy" and does not change asylum laws. Several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus want to make it clear the money will go to improving facilities where migrant children are being held, especially in the wake of shocking reports of filthy conditions and neglect at a Border Patrol station in Texas.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Monday night said she "will not fund another dime to allow ICE to continue its manipulative tactics," while Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she doesn't trust Trump to follow restrictions in the bill, adding, "He's creating these crises and then trying to point the finger at Democrats to give him more money, which he then uses for his own purposes." Trump enacts "cruel immigration policies," Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said, but "Democrats cannot allow our anger at this president to blind us to the horrific conditions at facilities along the border as the agencies run out of money."

Republicans are opposing the package for different reasons, specifically that the money won't be used to enforce immigration law, the Times reports. The White House said in a statement Monday night that Trump would likely veto the House legislation because it "does not provide adequate funding to meet the current crisis" and "contains partisan provisions designed to hamstring the administration's border enforcement efforts." Catherine Garcia

June 24, 2019

NASA's Curiosity rover has detected methane on Mars several times since landing in 2012, but last week, it measured the highest level yet: 21 parts per billion.

This is an "unusually high" level of the odorless, colorless gas, but NASA cautioned that while methane is produced by living organisms, this is not absolute proof of life on Mars, now or ever. "While increased methane levels measured by @MarsCuriosity are exciting, as possible indicators for life, it's important to remember this is an early science result," NASA's Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted. On Earth, major sources of methane include cattle and the production of fossil fuels.

Scientists will analyze the information, and plan on conducting more observations, NBC News reports. The methane was detected on Teal Ridge, inside the 96-mile-wide Gale Crater. Catherine Garcia

June 24, 2019

A hotel in the Dominican Republic where two American tourists recently died said it is removing liquor bottles from its minibars, but denies the move has anything to do with the deaths.

Erica Lopez, the general manager of The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, told CNN the decision to take out the bottles was made last week. Over the last year, at least 10 American tourists have died in the Dominican Republic, including David Harrison, 45, of Maryland, who died at the Hard Rock last July, and Robert Wallace, 67, of California, who died there in April. One theory behind the deaths is that tainted alcohol was somehow involved, and Wallace's relatives told KTXL he became ill after drinking scotch from the minibar in his room.

The FBI is assisting Dominican officials with toxicology reports, testing samples from some hotel minibars; authorities say that any time someone dies in a hotel room in the Dominican Republic, they test minibars for bacteria and take samples of water from showers and sinks. Last year, 6.5 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic, with 2.2 million from the United States, and officials from both countries say the deaths are not connected and there's no reason to cancel any upcoming vacations. Catherine Garcia

June 24, 2019

Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins, 103, is a force to be reckoned with on the track.

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resident has always been active, but preferred riding her bicycle to other activities. After she fell off her bike and dislocated her elbow, Hawkins switched to running a few years ago, telling Today, "I always came running in to answer the phone, so I thought maybe I could run."

Last week, she became the oldest woman to compete — and win — in the National Senior Games, taking home the gold in the 50- and 100-meter races. Hawkins, a former elementary school teacher, doesn't train for her runs, and said she gets her exercise from gardening. Inspiring older people to stay active is "a good thing," she told Today, and she wants everyone to remember "you can still do things when you get older. Just keep moving and be interested in things." Catherine Garcia

June 24, 2019

As part of an audit, the Office of the Inspector General will investigate why the Treasury Department delayed the release of a redesigned $20 bill featuring abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked the Treasury's watchdog to look into the matter and if there was "any involvement by the White House." In a statement released Monday, Schumer said there are "no women, there are no people of color on our paper currency today, even though they make up a significant majority of our population ... the $20 note was a long overdue way to recognize that disparity, and rectify it."

During the Obama administration, former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced the redesign, scheduled for release in 2020. In May, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Tubman $20 was being pushed aside, as the $10 and $50 bills needed to be redesigned first due to counterfeit concerns. The audit, which should take about 10 months to complete, will also look at security measures in place for currency. Catherine Garcia

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