Compiled by SARA RATHOD ’15
Nation and World Columnist
Senate rejects bill to reduce military commanders’ involvement in sexual assault cases
The Senate voted down a bipartisan bill on Thursday that would remove military commanders from the decisions to prosecute sexual assault cases. This decision is a blow to advocacy groups that claim the measure is an important part of the effort to curb the epidemic of military sexual assault cases. Supporters of the bill, which was sponsored by New York Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, say that because military commanders are likely to know both the victim and the perpetrator personally, victims of sexual assault are often reluctant to report their abuse. The bill called for an independent office of 600 new attorneys to deal with sexual assault cases. Critics of the bill say that allowing military commanders to separate themselves from sexual assault cases will reduce their accountability and will be detrimental to the command structure. Lawmakers will now consider a more moderate proposal by Sen. Claire McCaskill. Congress has already begun revamping the military legal system by striking down the statute of limitations on sexual assault cases, making it illegal to retaliate against victims and requiring anyone convicted of sexual assault or rape to be dishonorably discharged or dismissed from duty.
College Board to fundamentally reform SAT
Last Wednesday, the College Board announced that it will revamp the SAT, eliminating the penalty for guessing the wrong answer, cutting obscure vocabulary words and making the essay section optional. The College Board hopes to refocus the test on important academic skills and minimize the number of tricks embedded in the exam. For example, students will be tested on a new set of vocabulary words that are used more commonly in college courses, like “empirical” and “synthesis.” The scoring of the exam will also return to the 1,600 point scale, as opposed to the current 2,400 scale. The reforms are expected to take place in the spring of 2016. In the meantime, the College Board will offer free online practice problems and video tutorials on how to solve them, allowing students to bypass expensive SAT-prep classes if they cannot afford them.
Crimea votes to hold referendum on whether to secede from Ukraine
Tensions in the pro-Russian Ukrainian region of Crimea continued to escalate as regional authorities voted to hold a referendum to decide whether to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russia responded by signaling that it was prepared to annex Crimea, intensifying its conflict with Western powers over its military intervention in the region. The United States has imposed its first sanctions on Russian officials involved in the occupation and has banned U.S. visas in an effort to squeeze Russia into pulling its troops out of the region. At the same time, efforts to broker a diplomatic meeting between Russia and Ukraine have failed, and in the course of the hour-long telephone call between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two leaders found little common ground. The regional Parliament in Crimea plans to hold the vote to secede on March 16 in the face of continued criticism from the West.
Malaysia Airlines jet carrying over 200 passengers disppears
On Saturday morning, Malaysia Airlines announced that one of its flights, carrying at least 239 people, disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Air traffic control lost contact with the plane almost two hours after takeoff and never received any distress calls from the aircraft. By early Sunday morning, the search-and-rescue team had found no wreckage of the jet, and only an oil slick on the surface of the Gulf of Thailand offered some evidence for a crash. The airline has begun contacting the families of passengers and crew members. There were no reports of threatening weather when the plane last made contact, and the plane had recently passed inspection. The discovery of two passengers carrying stolen passports raised suspicions of foul play, but Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble told reporters on Tuesday that the disappearance was probably not linked to terrorism.