Pentagon releases plan to combat sexual assault in military

Published: Thursday, August 15, 2013 @ 3:45 PM
Updated: Thursday, August 15, 2013 @ 3:45 PM

Responding to intense pressure from Capitol Hill, the Pentagon today unveiled a series of new steps aimed at curbing the epidemic of sexual assault in the military.

At a news conference, senior Pentagon officials said they would immediately offer legal help to sexual assault victims, guarantee that all pre-trial hearings into sexual assault would be conducted by judge advocate general officers, and offer commanding officers the authority to protect victims by transferring the service member accused of the crime.

Although Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton and other lawmakers said the Pentagon’s plan falls short of what they believe is necessary, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters that “we are all accountable to fix this problem and we will fix it together.’’

Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness said that “the bottom line is sexual assault is not tolerated, not condoned, it’s not ignored and everyone in the department from the newest enlistee to the secretary of defense and everyone in between are responsible to uphold our values and continue an environment of dignity and respect for all.’’

The Pentagon has faced mounting criticism because of its inability to stop or at least dramatically reduce the thousands of cases of sexual assault that take place every year. The Department of Defense acknowledged that there were 26,000 cases of sexual assault in the military last year.

In particular, the Pentagon has tried to devise a system where victims of sexual assault – who for the most part have been women soldiers – could safely report the attacks and not have to continue serving in the same unit with the soldier accused of the assault.

“All of these measures will provide victims with additional rights, protections and legal support and help ensure that sexual assault related investigations and judicial proceedings are conducted thoroughly and professionally,’’ Little said.

“Sexual assault is a stain on the honor of our men and women who serve our country as well as a threat to the discipline and the cohesion of our force,’’ he said. “It must be stamped out.’’

White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement that “the initiatives announced today are substantial, but only a step along a path toward eliminating this crime from our military ranks.’’

Carney said that President Barack Obama “expects this level of effort to be sustained not only in the coming weeks and months, but as far into the future as necessary.’’

Turner, a member of the House Armed Services Committee who has led an effort to reduce sexual assault in the military, said he was “glad’’ that the Pentagon was “beginning to talk about sexual assault as a crime,’’ but he said senior Defense officials are “very far from recognizing the grave problem they have at’’ at the Pentagon.

Turner said he was “not confident’’ that the Defense Department “understands what needs to be done,’’ adding that the new plan “does not go far enough, but it’s definitely a start.’’

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., described the Pentagon’s announcement as “positive steps,’’ but she said “it is not the leap forward required to solve the problem.’’

“As we have heard over and over again from the victims, and the top military leadership themselves, there is a lack of trust in the system that has a chilling effect on reporting. 302 prosecutions out of an estimated 26,000 cases just isn’t good enough under any metric,’’ Gillibrand said in a statement. “It is time for Congress to seize the opportunity, listen to the victims and create an independent, objective and non-biased military justice system worthy of our brave men and women’s service.”

(Jessica Wehrman of the Washington bureau contributed to this story.)

White Nationalists hold flash mob rally in Charlottesville

Published: Saturday, October 07, 2017 @ 10:30 PM

File photo.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
File photo. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Richard Spencer led a group of White Nationalists in a “flash mob” style march to Emancipation Park Saturday.

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The group carried tiki torches and walked through the streets to the park which has a statue of Robert E. Lee covered in a tarp.

The crowd was heard chanting “You will not replace us,” and “We will be back,” according to WCAV.

The rally, which lasted about 20 minutes, comes about two months after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville Aug. 12.

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam all voiced their opposition to the group. 

“Another despicable visit by neo-Nazi cowards,” Signer said. “You’re not welcome here. Go home.”

The group was led by Spencer, who runs the National Policy Institute and is known for his rhetoric which mixes racism, white nationalism and populism. 

“We came, we triggered, we left,” Spencer said in a tweet. “We did an in and out flash mob. We came in peace tonight. It was a great success and we’re going to do it again.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

White nationalist Richard Spencer at University of Florida: Live updates

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 9:12 AM
Updated: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 9:22 AM

What You Need To Know: Richard B. Spencer

Florida’s flagship public university braced Thursday for a speech and rally by a white nationalist that was expected to bring thousands of protesters – and, some feared, violent demonstrations -- to its campus. 

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Richard Spencer is due to speak from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, about 2 miles from the center of the University of Florida campus.

In this Dec. 6, 2016, file photo, Richard Spencer, who leads a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism, speaks at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)(David J. Phillip/AP)

Alleged cop-killer smears feces on self in court, halting jury selection in murder trial

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 1:24 PM

Alleged Police Killer Smears Himself With Feces In Court

A man accused of murdering a New Orleans police officer in 2015 halted jury selection in his trial Wednesday by smearing feces on his face, head and mouth, horrifying potential jurors and courtroom spectators. 

Travis Boys, 35, apparently put the feces, wrapped in tissue, in his pocket during a bathroom break earlier in the day, NOLA.com reported. He was seated at the defense table with his attorneys when he pulled the tissue out and silently rubbed the waste on himself. 

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Boys is charged with first-degree murder in the June 20, 2015, shooting death of Officer Daryle Holloway. The officer was transporting Boys to jail when Boys allegedly shot him inside his police SUV. 

Boys escaped custody and was at large for about 24 hours before being recaptured. If convicted, he faces life in prison. 

The Advocate reported that criminal defense lawyer David Belfield, who is Holloway’s uncle, witnessed the incident. Belfield said he believed Boys was trying to sway potential jurors. 

“It’s calculated, and it shows that he’s not insane, not crazy,” Belfield told the newspaper

Boys has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, the Advocate reported. District Court Judge Karen Herman ruled last month that Boys was competent to stand trial in Holloway’s slaying. 

After halting the proceedings Wednesday, however, Herman ordered that another competency hearing be held on Thursday. His attorneys have argued that Boys suffers from low IQ and mental health problems. 

Though Herman ruled him competent to stand trial, she is allowing the defense to present evidence of schizophrenia in Boys’ family, the Advocate said. 

The judge dismissed the panel of potential jurors who witnessed Boys’ actions on Wednesday. 

The Advocate reported that the odor of bleach clung to the air an hour after the incident. 

Walmart sets its sights on shopping via virtual reality

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 4:36 PM

More Than 55 Stores Will Be Closed On Thanksgiving Day 2017

Walmart has spent billions buying up websites like Jet.com and ModCloth, and investing in new technology as it goes head-to-head with Amazon.com. Now, the world's largest retailer is setting its sights on virtual reality.

Imagine this, says Katie Finnegan, who heads Walmart's tech incubator: You need a tent for your next camping trip. If all goes to plan, you could one day virtually swoop in to your campsite and see any given tent in action. "You could unzip it, lay down, look left and right, and say 'Oh, this is supposed to be a two-person tent? It's kind of tight,' " she said.

And then you could move on to the next tent - without leaving your couch.

"There is a lot of technology we're excited about," she said, "but virtual reality in particular offers an opportunity top actually experience products and items in an immersive way."

>> Sorry, parents, one of this year’s hottest toys for Christmas is already selling out

The technology has yet to catch on with the mainstream, so such concepts are still very much in the gee-whiz stage with no guarantee of actually boosting sales. But this summer, the company put out an open call for technology firms, venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs to submit their ideas. A panel of five judges-including Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global, and Marc Lore, head of Walmart's U.S. ecommerce operations. - whittled down the 200 applicants to five winners. They then spent about two months at Walmart's technology incubator, called Store No 8, coming up with new shopping-centric applications for virtual reality.

Walmart has been experimenting with virtual reality to help train its employees for busy shopping days like Black Friday. It is also testing a program that would allow delivery drivers to walk into customers' homes and deliver groceries straight to their refrigerators.

>> Black Friday 2017: Macy’s, Big Lots, GameStop to open on Thanksgiving

Here are the five ideas the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company says could be making their way online as early as next year:

1. 3-D holograms at Bonobos.com, the male clothing site Walmart acquired this year for $310 million, that would make it possible for shoppers to try on virtual clothing for fit and style. According to Walmart, the technology would allow customers "to view how the fabric moves and get a sense of sizing, allowing for more realistic shopping previews and reviews." (The idea was proposed by 8i, a New Zealand-based maker of virtual reality software.)

2. Over at ModCloth, the womens' clothing site Walmart took over in March, customers may one day be able to take 3-D photos of themselves using just their smartphones, and use those images to get an idea of how something might look on them. That way, executives say, shoppers could "experience the realistic feel of an item before they purchase without having to physically go in-store." (A concept offered by Fyusion, a San Francisco-based company that develops technology for processing 3D scans.)

>> 56 stores confirm they will be closed Thanksgiving Day 2017

3. An "interactive virtual store" for designer Rebecca Minkoff, whose items are sold at Walmart.com, would allow customers to sit in on fashion shows and shop directly from the runway. The technology, the company said, would effectively allow it to create a virtual store-within-a-store. (Developed by Obsess VR, a New York-based technology firm that specializes in 360-degree shopping sites.)

4. Tired of shopping online alone? If Walmart gets its way, you may soon be interacting with other shoppers and experts as you pick out items for your virtual cart. Need help picking out a pair of jeans? A virtual fashion assistant may be able to help. Trying to figure out why your nightstand is lopsided? An employee could tell you which screws are loose. (A concept from Nurulize, a Los Angeles-based virtual reality software developer.)

5. Electric outlets, stove tops and door handles can all be child safety hazards - and soon, an online tool could peek inside your home and tell you where the biggest risks are lurking. The site could also give product recommendations and allow customers to test out items virtually before buying them. (Piloted by Specular Theory, a Venice Beach, California, company that specializes in immersive content.)