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Stormtrooper

8 women allege rape, harassment in U.S. military suit

Washington - Eight current and former members of the U.S. military allege in a new federal lawsuit that they were raped, assaulted or harassed during their service and suffered retaliation when they reported it to their superiors.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, accuses the military of having a "high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks" and fostering a hostile environment that discourages victims of sexual assault from coming forward and punishes them when they do. The suit claims the Defense Department has failed to take aggressive steps to confront the problem despite public statements suggesting otherwise.

The eight women include an active-duty enlisted Marine and seven others who served in the Navy and Marine Corps. Seven women allege that a comrade raped or tried to sexually assault them, including in a commanding officer's office after a pub crawl in Washington and inside a Naval Air Station barracks room in Florida. The eighth says she was harassed and threatened while deployed to Iraq, only to be told by a superior that "this happens all the time."

"There (are) no circumstances under which women who are brave enough and patriotic enough to stand up and defend this nation should have to be subjected to being called 'slut, whore, walking mattress,'" said Susan Burke, a lawyer representing the women. "This is the year 2012. This kind of conduct is not acceptable."

Sherlock

Two Murdoch journalists in apparent suicide bids

Sun NoW Times

Two senior journalists working for Rupert Murdoch's News International have apparently attempted suicide as pressure mounts at the scandal-hit publisher of the now-defunct News of the World.

Three sources close to the company told Reuters on Tuesday the two journalists at the Sun daily appeared to have tried to take their own lives. Investigations sparked by a phone-hacking scandal continue to expose dubious practices by present and past employees.

Eleven current and former staff of the Sun, Britain's best-selling daily tabloid, have been arrested this year on suspicion of bribing police or civil servants for tip-offs.

Bell

Rush Limbaugh could 'definitely' be sued by Fluke for slander: Lawyer

cspan pelosi
© cspan
An attorney says that Georgetown law School student Sandra Fluke could "definitely" sue Republican talk show host Rush Limbaugh for slander because she does not fit the legal definition of a public figure. On his radio show last week, Limbaugh called Fluke a "slut," a "prostitute" and demanded that she publish "sex tapes" online in exchange for access to contraception coverage through her private insurance policy.

Speaking to Philidelphia Daily News on Monday, attorney Max Kennerly with The Beasley Firm said, "His statements implied facts about somebody's sex life, that she was promiscuous and trading sex for money." Kennerly added that Limbaugh's "false statements of fact" could lead to his downfall and financial penalties for Clear Channel Communications, which broadcasts his show.

Update: Kennerly has also published an essay explaining his rationale for advocating a slander suit against Limbaugh. Read it here.

Eye 1

Single parents labelled "a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect" by Republican bill

single mom
© shutterstock
A Wisconsin Republican has introduced a bill to the state Senate that would force the state's Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to print literature that calls unmarried parents "a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect."

The directives put forth in S.B. 507 would see the state board creating educational materials that condemn "nonmarital parenthood." Associated third party groups that receive state grants would also be required to include that message in their own literature.

Those materials, along with pamphlets issued by third party groups that receive state grants, would also be required to "emphasize the role of fathers" in safeguarding a child's well being.

The requirement is a bit startling, especially to single parents who ended their marriage to prevent child abuse or neglect. And that's not a small group of people either: 31 percent of Wisconsin parents are single, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The bill's author, state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R), did not respond to a request for comment.

(H/T: RH Reality Check)

Footprints

Push To Label Genetically Modified Food Gains Traction

Image
© stltoday.com
A freezer full of plant tissue cultures in petri dishes, at Monsanto, will soon spawn a new generation of plants genetically altered to resist certain pests in this 1996 file photo.
Thousands of products in the typical American grocery store, from cereals to corn chips, contain genetically modified ingredients. But the average shopper wouldn't know it from their labels.

Many companies in the food and biotechnology industry, including Creve Coeur-based Monsanto Co., want to keep it that way. But they'll have to fend off a growing push for labels on genetically modified products that's gaining traction in Washington and state capitals.

At least 18 states are now considering laws that would make the labels mandatory, including Illinois and California, the country's biggest market. Earlier this year, pro-labeling advocates marched from New York to Washington. Late last fall, about 500 groups, including some of the country's biggest consumer organizations, banded together as the Just Label It campaign. Also last fall, the Washington-based Center for Food Safety filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calling for the agency to require labels. As of this week, the petition had 850,000 signatures of support, the most ever for a federal food petition.

Umbrella

Latest floods set to sting Victorians - more insurance premium rises

Victorian households should steel themselves for more insurance premium rises following the latest round of devastating floods, a top economist warns.

Country towns worst hit by the latest crisis were also likely to be hit with council rate increases to cover huge rebuilding costs, AMP Capital's Dr Shane Oliver said.

Farmers and local communities are bracing for further crop losses and financial devastation after a $6 billion hit to the national economy caused by previous disasters, including Victorian and Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi.


People

Afghan Child Hunger Among Worst in World

Afghan boys beg for food
© AFP
Afghan boys beg for food with a plastic fork near the village of Jano Khevl in the province of Paktika in 2011.
Children in Afghanistan suffer one of the highest levels of chronic malnutrition in the world, a report said Monday, despite billions of dollars in aid that have poured into the war-torn country.

More than half of Afghan children under the age of five are chronically malnourished, according to the joint report by the World Bank and the government.

"Because of the ongoing conflict, foreign assistance has disproportionally gone to the provinces where concentration of troops and fighting has been heaviest," said acting World Bank country director Josephine Bassinette.

"But the analysis in this report shows that poverty and food insecurity rates are actually higher in the more peaceful provinces," she said, pressing for better targeting of aid to ensure it reaches the poorest people.

"It is shocking to learn that children are amongst the most vulnerable segment of the Afghan population, and their lives that could be saved are at risk," said Economy Minister Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal.

Heart - Black

The Senator: Sara Barnes Charged With Setting Fire That Destroyed 3,500-Year-Old Florida Cypress Tree

Sara Barnes

A 26-year-old Orlando-area woman has been charged with setting the January fire that burned and destroyed 'The Senator', one of the world's oldest pond cypress trees and a beloved local attraction.

Investigators said tips to a crime hotline led them to Sara Barnes, who allegedly took photos of the fire she started inside the popular 118-foot-high hollow tree and uploaded them to her laptop, reports WKMG. According to WESH, Barnes told police she regularly visited the spot in Longwood's Big Tree Park to use drugs, and lit a fire the night of January 16 in order to see better.

"She did not call the Fire Department or 911 to report the fire," Florida Department of Agriculture spokesman Sterling Ivey told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's a great fuel source. Unfortunately."

Arrow Down

Convicted Killer Received Unemployment Benefits While Jailed

Los Angeles, California - Authorities say a convicted killer who gained notoriety for having a murder scene tattooed on his chest received unemployment benefits while he was in jail.

Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker said Saturday that Anthony Garcia, nicknamed "Chopper," received more than $30,000 in fraudulent unemployment while in Los Angeles County jail from 2008 to 2010.

Parker says Garcia's father and two girlfriends would get the checks then cash them and deposit the money in the inmate accounts of Garcia and fellow gang members.

2 + 2 = 4

Australian Students Think Cotton Is an Animal and Other Education Failures

Education
© Minyanville
Bad Education
"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

That, if you'll go back in time twelve years with me, comes from President Bush, and actually only ranks 3rd on this list of his top ten gaffes.

Anyways, according to former New York City schools Chancellor and current head of News Corp's education division Joel Klein, that question (or a grammatically correct variant of it) has not been asked enough in the current presidential race. In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, Klein pointed out that even though only one-quarter of US students perform on par with students in the world's top five school systems, this year's presidential debate has devoted only 1% of the time and questions on education.

Then again, at least we're not alone.

According to a recent story in the Global Post, Australia (generally considered among the stronger education systems in the world) has seen a recent decline in test scores and student performance. In math, for example, Australian students have fallen two to three years behind their peers in some parts of Asia.