Recently in National News Category

Sexual Assault Reports Rise in Military

In April of this year the Department of Defense reported an 11 percent increase in sexual assaults involving a service member, but military insiders say the jump is due to increased reporting, not more assaults.

The report said that there were 3,230 reports filed during the fiscal year that ended last September, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Pentagon, along with local military mental health resources, say that this is a result of a radical policy change in 2004 that altered how the military handled sexual harrasment or assault cases.

Before that date, the Star Tribune says that any and all counts of sexual harassment were immediately sent forth to a civilian law enforcement. Aside from the obvious fears attached to reporting a sexual assault, this only made the action of reporting feel like a deeper betrayal to the unit than the assault in the first place, Lt. Col. Cynthia Rasmussen told the Star Tribune.

Military culture is changing, Helen Benedict, a professor of journalism at Colombia, told the Tribune, and that's good for women who want to serve their country. Long regarded as spoils of victory or prey in the man-focused sphere of combat, women are proving themselves everyday to be just as capable as their male counterparts.

"It's a sign of hope, really, in that once all those people have aged out and younger peers who are more used to seeing women as equal are in charge," she said. "There will be a generational change."

Heisman Favorite Absolved, Father Accepts Guilt

Auburn University's quarterback Cam Newton was declared eligible to play after a suspension lasting less than 24 hours was lifted on Dec. 1. Newton was suspended on suspicion an ethics violation in the form of soliciting a pay-for-play arrangement with Mississippi State University.

USA Today reported that the NCAA cleared Newton for play after an investigation was made into the matter. The NCAA discovered that Cecil Newton, Cam's father, and the agent representing them, Kenny Rogers, had committed the violation without Cam's involvement when they asked Mississippi State for more than 100,000 dollars in exchange for a signed letter of intent.

ESPN reported that the controversy surrounding the situation, especially his alleged involvement in it, troubled Cam deeply. "Everything I've done at this university, I did it the right way," he said in an interview. "I'm a person that did no wrong."

In response to Cam's reinstatement, his father released a statement through the family's attorney stating that he would not be attending the Heisman ceremony on Sunday night. He said that his son has worked hard to get where he is and that he does not want his presence to detract from the moment in any way. "SO THAT MY SON CAM NEWTON CAN RECEIVE ALL THE HONORS AND CONGRAGULATIONS THAT HE HAS WORKED SO HARD TO ACCOMPLISH WIHTOUT DISTRACTION, I HAVE DECIDED NOT TO BE IN ATTENDANCE AT THE HEISMAN CEREMONY; AS IT WILL PERHAPS ROB CAM AND THE EVENT OF A SACRED MOMENT," the statement reads.

The Newton family lawyer stated that the Roberts family was happy their son was allowed to play, but saddened that the charges were not dropped altogether. "He's hurt badly by this," the lawyer said. "It's like sticking a knife in the guy." The NCAA has not completely closed the case on Newton yet. The official release stated that his reinstatement occurred "prior to the close of an investigation."

Palin's Reality Show?

Former governor of Alaska and candidate for vice president Sarah Palin announced in the spring that she would be making a reality show called "Sarah Palin's Alaska" which has recently begun airing episodes. The New Yorker reports on the pilot.

This piece was particularly interesting to me because of its structure. The 'scene' that the reporter covers is the show as it progresses, though she could logically have done the reporting from her living room. After opening with a diatribe about the quality of programming on TLC and the American people's awkward tastes, she goes on to catalog the events unfolding on screen sequentially.

Though the show does give a look into Palin's family life, the New Yorker said, every moment of their interactions feels calculated and premeditated, exposing the 'show' aspect of it. Beyond that, the education the show attempts to give viewers on the wonders of Alaska never makes it past grade school, the New Yorker reported.

Mixed in with the events that take place with her family are moments when Palin steps back to reveal more of her personal political philosophy or outlook on an issue. For instance, when the family returns home after a night out, Palin ties the privacy fence erected to keep nosy journalists out of their business to her thoughts on immigration and how to secure the borders of the country.

Going on a show like this is a risky political move. On the campaign trail with John McCain in '08 Palin made several gaffes that cost them public favor and, potentially, votes. Thrusting Palin even further into the public eye, albeit in an editable and controllable medium, could be disastrous for her popularity as a potential politician or presidential contender. Only time will tell how voters feel about Palin, but as the New Yorker closed, "She says that she'd 'rather be doing this than in some stuffy old political office' and 'a poor day of fishin' beats even a great day of work.' In that spirit, I wish Palin many, many days--years--of fishin', starting now."

TSA's Full-Body Scanners Cause Continuing Controversy

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The widespread implementation of new scanning equipment in airports across the country has both passengers and pilots in uproar this holiday season.

The new backscatter scanner device uses several different types of waves including x-rays to create an image portraying the subject essentially nude, with any concealed weapon revealed, CNN.com reported. Passengers or pilots concerned about privacy or health who choose to opt out of the service are subjected to an "enhanced pat-down" including the use of fingers and open hands to feel objector's chests and groins, Wired News reports.

David Brenner, a professor of radiation biophysics, has told CNN that the risk of backscatter scans hurting subjects is very low, but that's not enough to satiate those who fly most frequently - pilots. Two separate pilot unions have sent out letters to all of their members advising them to decline the full-body scans, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Concerned passengers plan to stand up against such invasive practices with a 'National Opt Out day' to take place on the busiest day of air travel in the United States, November 24th. Brian Sodegren, creator of the event, told Wired "You should never have to explain to your children, 'Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it's a government employee, then it's OK.'"

Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano met with industry officials on Friday to reinforce the commitment to allowing passengers their privacy while maintaining strict security in airports, CNN reported. The officials said that the meeting was informative, but the department's activities have left a lot up in the air.

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