“We need to encourage young people, men and women, to realize that sexual assault is simply unacceptable. And they’re going to have to summon the bravery to stand up and say so, especially when the social pressure to keep quiet or to go along can be very intense.” President Obama, explaining why he created a task force to address sexual assault on college campuses on January 22, 2014
Nation: Virginia’s attorney general says gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.
The new attorney general of Virginia, Mark Herring, announced this week that he would no longer enforce a gay marriage ban in the state that he believes to be unconstitutional. This is a big shift from previous positions taken by Virginia’s elected officials. “While Virginia has a storied place in the founding of our nation and has contributed to the development of our democracy, it has also been on the wrong side of court cases involving school desegregation, interracial marriage, and state-supported single-sex education,” said Herring’s spokesman Michael Kelly.
World: Syria peace talks underway.
Peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian conflict began this week in Switzerland, but have shown few signs of progress so far. Secretary of State John Kerry said at the end of a first day rife with heated discussion, that it was significant that senior diplomats from 40 countries and organizations had gathered in Montreux in the first place. He knew the talks would be “tough” and described the conference as a “process,” that could potentially last for a very long time. UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi will hold separate talks with each side to feel out their willingness to meet together before full talks resume on Friday.
Politics: Privacy board calls NSA spying illegal.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by Congress in 2007, said in a report released this week that the NSA’s collection and use of bulk phone records is illegal, and has provided only “minimal” support in thwarting terrorist attacks. The five-member board was split 3-2 on the decision. The President’s current plan would transfer the large database of phone records away from the NSA, but there is some concern the move could be a heavy lift.
Business: Arrest made in Lufthansa heist.
On Thursday, five reputed mobsters were indicted in connection with a string of previously unsolved crimes including the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK International Airport where a group of masked gunmen seized about $6 million in cash and jewels from a cargo building. It was the largest cash robbery in United States history and ended up playing a starring role in the 1990 movie “Goodfellas.” Federal authorities charged mobster Vincent Asaro, 78, with playing a role in the robbery and represents the first time an organized crime figure has been charged in the heist. “It may be decades later, but the F.B.I.’s determination to investigate and bring wiseguys to justice will never waiver,” said George Venizelos, an F.B.I. agent.
Sports: Sochi security concerns.
The Pentagon is offering to help Russia with additional security at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and among the assistance includes sending devices to stop roadside bombs. U.S. intelligence is assessing the new potential risk of a terror attack at the Games especially the threat of “black widows” or female suicide bombers which are now being hunted by Russian security forces. Juan Zarate, a national security analyst said that Russia wants “to do it on their terms, but as the Olympics approach, as the threats are more real, they’re more willing to accept assistance.”
Women’s Affairs: Mayor of Compton hoping to affect change.
President Obama met with the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Thursday, and among them is 31-year-old Aja Brown, Mayor of Compton, California. She is a leader gaining national attention for her drive to rid Compton of its reputation for gangs and violence. She is passionate about public service saying, “That title, to me, just means the biggest servant.” She faces a tough battle: high crime, high poverty, and poor schools and the city’s notorious image, in part grown by hometown rappers. “I dedicated my career to really working in under-served communities and really just being in the trenches,” Brown explains. To many she represents hope for Compton’s future.