WASHINGTON – Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased by an unprecedented 46 percent during the last fiscal year, the Pentagon said Thursday.
It wasn’t possible to know whether the spike represented an increase in assaults, an increase in the percentage of people reporting them, or both. Defense Department officials portrayed the sharp increase as a sign that people are more confident about coming forward now that improvements are being made to the military’s system for handling assaults.
There were 3,553 sexual assault complaints from October 2012 through June, compared with 2,434 reports during the same period the previous year, according to statistics presented Thursday at the start of a two-day public meeting of an independent panel looking into the issue
The report to the Response Systems Panel said an increase in reports was registered across all service branches – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
Proof of Arafat’s poisoning elusive
Yasser Arafat’s mysterious 2004 death turned into a whodunit Thursday after Swiss scientists who examined his remains said the Palestinian leader was probably poisoned with radioactive polonium.
Yet hard proof remains elusive, and nine years on, tracking down anyone who might have slipped minuscule amounts of the lethal substance into Arafat’s food or drink could be difficult.
A new investigation could also prove embarrassing – and not just for Israel, which the Palestinians have long accused of poisoning their leader and which has denied any role.
The Palestinians themselves could come under renewed scrutiny, since Arafat was holed up in his Israeli-besieged West Bank compound in the months before his death, surrounded by advisers, staff and bodyguards.
Strong typhoon slams Philippines
One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded slammed into the Philippines early today.
The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center shortly before Typhoon Haiyan’s landfall said its maximum sustained winds were 195 mph, with gusts up to 235 mph.
There aren’t too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind, said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at Weather Underground. Masters warned of catastrophic damage.
Obama supports minimum wage hike
President Barack Obama supports a bill sponsored by two congressional Democrats to bump the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a White House official said Thursday.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., have been pushing a plan to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour in increments of 95 cents.
The president has long supported raising the minimum wage so hardworking Americans can have a decent wage for a day’s work to support their families and make ends meet, and he supports the Harkin/Miller bill that accomplishes this important goal, the official said.