Arguing that their constitutional rights are being violated, two female Army Reserve officers on May 23 sued the Defense Department and the Army in an effort to overturn the policies banning women from combat roles. The lawsuit filed in federal district court came one week after Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, asked senior officers to present a plan this summer for opening the famed Ranger school to female recruits. It's a move that, if adopted, likely would place women in combat roles.
Odierno said that allowing women to become Rangers would help them achieve higher ranks. About 90 percent of senior Army infantry officers are qualified as Rangers. Women, who make up 16 percent of the Army, are barred from serving in special operations, infantry, or armor forces. But the Army already is implementing plans to let women serve closer to the front lines: New Pentagon rules now allow women to serve in the smaller battalion level that operates closer to the enemy. The lawsuit claims that servicewomen suffer discrimination because they are "limited to support positions with no possibility to compete within the combat arms."
Opponents of placing women in combat roles claim that women will not be held to the same high standards as men at the rigorous Ranger school. Ranger recruits endure 61 days of training in mountain, desert, and swamp tactics with little food and sleep.
Ruling on counseling
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy informed a Christian counselor that she would lose her senior accredited status after she offered therapy for homosexuality to an undercover journalist faking a request for her help. The advocacy group Christian Concern reported that journalist Patrick Strudwick approached Christian counselor Lesley Pilkington and asked for therapy for unwanted homosexual desires. After two sessions, the journalist filed a complaint with the British accrediting agency.
The organization refused a request to ban the reparative therapy that Pilkington uses to help clients who want to leave homosexuality, but said that the counselor shouldn't have assumed that Strudwick wanted to proceed with the style of counseling. (Pilkington says Strudwick agreed to her approach in advance.) Pilkington told Christian Concern she was glad the association didn't ban reparative therapy, but asked: "Who is going to protect Christian counselors from continued harassment?"
Egypt on the edge
Egyptian voters face a June 16-17 presidential run-off to decide who will control the political reins in the post-revolution country: a former military leader with strong ties to ousted President Hosni Mubarak or a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing.
Preliminary results from the May presidential elections set up a run-off between Ahmed Shafiq, 70, a former air force general and prime minister under Mubarak, and Mohammed Morsi, 60, the Muslim Brotherhood's pick.
It's a choice some Egyptians don't relish. Secular activists drove the revolution to oust Mubarak last year, and hoped for a liberal-minded candidate to move away from the old regime or an Islamic-centered politician. (The Muslim Brotherhood already controls nearly 50 percent of the seats in parliament.)
But it appears secularists will garner some attention for at least the next few weeks: In the days after the May contest, candidates were strategizing how to snag swing voters in an election that could shape the future of the country for decades.
Time is debt
If a $15.7 trillion federal debt sounds big, the debt problem may be even worse. The Congressional Joint Economic Committee released a report on May 15 estimating the total debt of the country-including state deficits and unfunded state pension liabilities-could be more than $200 trillion. The report's co-authors, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), say unfunded pension liabilities are the ticking time bombs. "Some jurisdictions around the United States already spend more money on retired workers than on current employees, and more on retired teachers than on existing students and schools," they said in a statement. Brady and DeMint say Congress should make it clear that the federal government won't bail out the states if they are unable to solve this problem.
In an unfolding Vatican scandal that involves intrigue, corruption, and leaked documents, Vatican police arrested the personal butler to Pope Benedict XVI on May 23. The arrest of butler Paolo Gabriele, 46, sent shockwaves through Vatican City and followed the publication of a book full of leaked Vatican documents.
The papers allege corruption in Vatican finance and in-fighting among top officials. Vatican investigators said they arrested Gabriele after finding Holy See documents in his apartment. They believe he may have leaked other papers to Italian journalists in an effort to undermine top church officials.
Meanwhile, Vatican officials fired the president of the Vatican bank, saying that Ettore Gotti had leaked Vatican documents unrelated to the current scandal and failed to perform his duties. Carl Anderson, a member of the board of the Vatican bank that ousted the president, said the controversy had grown surreal: "If you wrote this in fiction, you wouldn't believe it."
The lives of more than 740,000 people in nine African countries were saved between 2004 and 2008 by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, according to a study by the Stanford University School of Medicine. The health program, known also as PEPFAR, started under President George W. Bush and focused on fighting AIDS and malaria in 15 countries. But researchers found that it reduced adults' risk of death from all causes by 16 percent to 20 percent during those four years.
"Despite all the challenges to making aid work and to implementing HIV treatment in Africa, the benefits of PEPFAR were large and measurable across many African countries," said Stanford assistant professor of medicine Eran Bendavid. The study analyzed health and survival data from more than 1.5 million adults in 27 African nations.
Republicans proposed slashing PEPFAR's budget by 10 percent in 2011.
President Barack Obama told the graduating class of U.S. Air Force Academy cadets on May 23 that they are starting their service at a time when the burden of national security no longer falls so heavily on their shoulders: "You are the first class in nine years that will graduate into a world where there are no Americans fighting in Iraq." But battles over military policy continue: An approved amendment to the House defense bill explicitly prevents same-sex marriage services from taking place on U.S. military bases.
"The administration's recent actions have created uncertainty regarding ceremonies permitted on military installations," said Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., as the House approved an amendment to the defense reauthorization bill explicitly preventing same-sex marriage services on U.S. military bases. Also, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., pushed through a second amendment to create a statutory conscience protection clause for service members. It came at the request of military chaplain organizations that have reported an increase in censorship and discipline directed at soldiers who have moral or religious concerns about same-sex marriage.