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Israel plans for naval buildup

Energy resources are a hot commodity in the Levant Basin days, and with 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil, 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas, and 5 billion barrels of natural gas liquids at stake, the Israeli defense ministry is asking for a "one-time budget increase" of about $760 million to boost its naval capacity in the Mediterranean Sea so it can better protect the country's offshore natural gas platforms. Though Israel purchased its fourth Dolphin-class diesel-electric submarine from Germany earlier this year to the tune of over $500 million, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Benny Gantz are on board with the plan, which "calls for adding four new warships to Israel's naval fleet and deploying hundreds of soldiers in the area."

Natural gas discoveries in the early twenty-first century have created a military debacle for Israel, which does not have demarcated maritime boundary with Lebanon.  All of the multinational gas platforms are privately owned and fall within Israel's exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles from the coast, but they are located beyond Israel's territorial waters, which only stretch 12 nautical miles from land.  

Israel's first offshore natural gas discovery, Tamar, is not slated to come online until 2013, but the defense institution fears that the platforms are already targets for terrorist attacks from Hezbollah, which receives long-range missiles from Syria. The Israeli navy does not traditionally get the lion's share of the defense budget, and top officials are worrying. As one anonymous senior Israeli military planner told Reuters, "We will do our best, but not without a major boost to our capabilities." In May, senior naval officer Capt. Sassi Hodeda told the Los Angeles Times that the navy wants to improve its radar systems and use unmanned surface vehicles to patrol, but added that they require "special technology" the navy does not have.

If the navy does receive the extra funding, the vessels it purchases "will have to accommodate an advanced radar system, a helicopter and a launch system capable of firing long-range air defense and surface-to-surface missiles." According to the Jerusalem Post, the options include designing the ships in the U.S. using foreign military aid, and building them in South Korea, but if Israel is really looking for international help, maybe it should consider ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty first.

AFP/Getty Images

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Where transmitting HIV is a crime

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law, a group commissioned by the U.N. Development Program and chaired by former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, has released a study today on the role laws and institutions play in the spread of HIV/AIDS. Among other topics, the paper discusses the countries where transmitting HIV is considered a crime. It seems the United States is something of a trendsetter and global leader on that front:

Some jurisdictions apply existing general offences to criminalise HIV exposure or transmission—from “administration of a noxious substance” (France) to attempted homicide (United States). Others have chosen to target HIV: the frst HIV-specific laws were passed in the United States in 1987, with many other nations quickly following suit. The past decade has seen a new wave HIV-specific statutes, notably in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America.

Today, countries and jurisdictions in every region of the world have promulgated HIV-specific criminal statutes. They’re on the books in 37 of the 50 United States; in Africa, 27 countries have them; in Asia and the Paci?c, 13; Latin America, 11; and Europe, 9. According to a 2010 report by the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), at least 600 people living with HIV in 24 countries have been convicted under HIV-specific or general criminal laws, with the greatest numbers reported in North America.

The report condemns these laws, arguing that they discourage people who are HIV-positive from participating in treatment programs or disclosing their status to their sexual partners.

The the United States convicts more people for transmission of HIV than any other country -- under various state laws -- followed by Canada. Surprisingly, Sweden and Norway have the highest conviction rate compared to HIV-positive population. The global comission's report notes that "In Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, migrants and asylum seekers have been disproportionately represented among those prosecuted for HIV transmission and exposure.

Denmark suspended its law criminalizing HIV transmission in 2011. The law had been one of the world's harshest, making it a crime to expose another person to risk of HIV infection, even if there was no actual transmission.

The reports also cites laws that stigmatize gays, transgendered people, migrants, prisoners, and drug users as contributing to the spread of HIV.