Sad statistics. According to a Defense Department report due out later this week, sexual assaults in the military have increased by more than a third in the last three years. Officials estimate 26,000 service members suffered a sexual assault in 2012, compared to 19,300 in 2010. The estimates are based on a survey, not on actual reports of assault. The numbers suggest only about one-in-10 victims stepped forward last year to report an incident. Some lawmakers want to give victims an extra measure of protection by taking the decision to pursue a sexual assault claim out of the hands of the military’s commanding officers. Lawmakers believe military lawyers should make the decision instead. On Monday the Air Force reported its chief sexual assault prevention officer was arrested for allegedly groping a woman.
Arming the rebels. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said today the United States likely would start arming Syrian rebels in the near future. Corker made his remarks after finishing a round of golf with President Barack Obama at Andrews Air Force Base. Corker also said the United States is doing more on the ground in Syria than people realize, although he didn’t give specific details. The Obama administration has been reluctant to get more involved in the Syrian conflict, but the president acknowledged last week reports that Bashar al-Assad’s government used chemical weapons on rebel forces were a “game changer.” So far, the United States and its allies have only assisted the rebels with financial aid.
Fertilizer at fault. Investigators have confirmed ammonium nitrate triggered the explosion at the fertilizer plan in West, Texas, last month. The blast killed 14, injured more than 200, and left the small town with $100 million in property damage. Investigators continue to search for the source of the original fire that sparked the explosion. Ammonium nitrate is a dry fertilizer mixed with other fertilizers such as phosphate and applied to crops to promote growth. It was used as an ingredient in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that left 168 people dead. Investigators have so far ruled out weather, natural causes, another type of fertilizer stored on site, a railcar containing ammonium nitrate, and the ammonium nitrate bin as possible sources for the fire.
Slimming down. This guy just can’t stay out of the news. One day after making headlines for his spider-killing prowess, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced he had secret weight loss surgery in February. He’s lost almost 40 pounds so far. “I’ve struggled with this issue for 20 years,” Christie told the New York Post. “For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them.” But it could also be about the 2016 presidential election. Pundits speculated earlier this year that Christie’s weight would be a hindrance to a run for the White House. The governor, a darling of some conservatives, has not said whether he will throw his hat in the ring for the GOP nomination.